Gender Differences in the Experiences of African American College Students

Christina N. Baker | Women, Gender, and Families of Color | vol. 3, no. 1 (2015)

Although women earn the majority of degrees across all ethnic groups (66% of Bachelor degrees, 72% of Masters degrees, and 67% of doctoral degrees), the gender disparity is greatest among African American students. Low college attendance and graduation rates of black men negatively impact opportunities for employment, earnings, marriage, and involvement in family life. This, in turn, has a significant impact on African American communities in general.

In “Gender Differences in the Experiences of African American College Students,” Christina Baker argues that the social and academic experiences of African American students contribute significantly to differences in educational outcomes of men and women within this population. Using survey data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Freshman, Baker examines how social support from African American members of the campus community and the college racial composition influence the educational experiences of African American women and men attending historically white selective colleges.

Key Takeaways

  • In general, co-ethnic support from members of the campus community (including interaction with peers and African American faculty members) may improve chances of academic success by providing social support specific to the needs of African American students
  • Black women are more likely to rely on co-ethnic support during college than are black men (including depending on someone of the same race at the college for personal support, taking classes with African American instructors, and being involved in a majority black student group)
  • The perception of a negative racial environment results in lower rates of satisfaction among African American females, but has no impact on the satisfaction of African American males.
  • Co-ethnic support has no effect on either college satisfaction or academic performance among African American males, but makes a significant positive difference for both satisfaction and performance among African American females