NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 19, 2006

The way schools are structured affects the incidence of "acting-white," a phenomenon in which minority adolescents who get good grades in school are ridiculed by their peers for engaging in behaviors perceived to be characteristic of whites, says Harvard University economist Roland G. Fryer.

This pattern is seen most prevalently in public schools:

  • When a Hispanic student achieves a 2.5 grade point average, they lose popularity at an alarming rate.
  • A black student with a 4.0 has, on average, 1.5 fewer friends of the same ethnicity than a white student with the same GPA.
  • A Hispanic student with a 4.0 GPA is the least popular of all Hispanic students.

Fryer finds that acting white is unique to those schools where black students make up less than 80 percent of the student population. In predominantly black schools, there is no evidence that getting good grades adversely affects students' popularity.

Source: Roland G. Fryer, "Who's Acting White," Dallas Morning News, January 15, 2006.


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