Research Library

Three studies explore how feelings of belonging among White students and stigmatized students of color influence their academic choices, goals, and performance. Drawing from an identity threat and stigma framework, we suggest that anticipated belonging influences all students when considering future-oriented decisions (e.g., choosing a college major; Study 1). However, because students of color are targeted by negative stereotypes that create uncertainty about their belonging in academic settings, actual feelings of belonging in school may be stronger predictors of these students’ academic outcomes. Consistent with this hypothesis, belonging in school predicted educational efficacy and ambitions of African American middle school students, but not of White students (Study 2). Further, feelings of belonging in the first weeks of college predicted second semester grades among stigmatized students of color, but not White students (Study 3). We suggest a more nuanced understanding of belonging is essential to creating supportive schools for everyone.