Researchers express growing concern over the increasing higher education achievement gap between subgroups of Black American students (e.g., Massey, Mooney, Torres, & Charles, 2007). Whereas the number of degrees awarded to Black females has consistently grown for each of the past twenty years, the number of degrees awarded to Black males during each of these same years has either declined, stagnated, or, at best, only minimally increased (NCES, 2006). Similarly, investigators have found considerable differences between the academic experiences and success rates of U.S.-origin and immigrant-origin Black undergraduates (Massey et al., 2007), as well as between those of Black first-generation college students and Black students whose parents attended college (or second-plus-generation college students; Hertel, 2002).
To address the aforementioned disparities, we drew on Tinto's model of persistence (1993) and social identity threat theory (e.g., Steele et al., 2002) and used path analysis based in structural equation modeling to test three-wave longitudinal models of college persistence for 101 ethnically-diverse Black undergraduates at 32 different predominantly White institutions. After comparing Black student subgroups' perceived support from high school faculty, college social support/integration, and college academic integration, we tested three models measuring the direct and indirect effects of these variables on college persistence. The first of the three models also measured the influence of gender, whereas the second and third models measured the influence of immigrant-generational status and college generational status.
Fewer differences than we anticipated emerged between Black student subgroups, particularly from comparisons between males and females and first- and second-plus-generation college students. Most notably, however, comparisons between U.S.-origin and immigrant-origin students revealed that immigrant-origin students earned significantly higher grades during high school and persisted in college significantly more often than U.S.-origin students. Even when accounting for the significant positive effects of high school grades and SES on college persistence, there was a near significant trend for Black immigrant-origin undergraduates to persist at higher rates than U.S.-origin Black undergraduates. We also describe other significant differences, possible explanations for the lack of expected findings, and implications for educators, mentors and academic institutions.