Previous investigations of disproportionate representation of students from certain ethnic groups in special education have suggested that disproportionality is the result of bias against the members of overrepresented groups or, conversely, the result of disproportionate exposure to poverty for these students. Strong evidence in favor of either position has failed to emerge over the past decades, leading us to conclude that the models underlying these examinations might be inadequate. We, therefore, examined disproportionality in ED at the national level (50 states and DC) for two ethnic groups, African-American and Hispanic students. Using a more complex model, we found that disproportionate poverty was positively associated with representation of these two groups in ED classification. The representation of African-Americans in the ED category was negatively correlated with levels of conservatism for a state while poverty more strongly affected individuals from Hispanic backgrounds. We suggest that the general underidentification of individuals from all ethnic groups may be the larger problem.


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pp. 29-50
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2020
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