Date of Award

5-1-2017

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Greer, Tawanda

Abstract

The “Black-White” achievement gap, in which some African American students show lower academic achievement than their White American counterparts, has received increased empirical attention. Classism has rarely been explored in psychological research as a significant contextual factor for understanding African American college students’ academic performance. Previous research shows that academic self-concept (ASC) is an attitudinal construct which consistently predicts African American college students’ grade point averages (GPA). A wealth of previous research also suggests that college student’s social class background and experiences with classism significantly influence students’ academic attitudes and performance. With this empirical and theoretical backing, a hierarchal regression analysis was run to test experiences with classism (EWC) as a moderator of the effects of academic self-concept on GPA for a sample of 124 cisgender, heterosexual African American students at SIUC, a predominantly white institution (PWI). Thus, the present study was conducted to test the hypothesis that African American college students’ levels of experience with classism would significantly moderate the effects of students’ ASC on their GPA. Results of the regression analysis showed that EWC did not significantly moderate the effects of ASC on GPA. An alternative mediation model was also tested, and showed that EWC did not mediate the relationship between ASC and GPA. Potential explanations for the results are provided, as well as limitations, and implications. Although the findings were not significant, the results of the present study call for future research to explicitly explore the influence of social class on psychological experiences, especially as it intersects with marginalized identities in the U.S. Overall, as African Americans’ and college students’ academic experiences are both greatly influenced by social class and classism, the academic achievement of African American and White American students should be discussed in the context of systems of oppression in which their achievements occur.

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