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The Source of the River:
The Social Origins of Freshmen at America's Selective Colleges and Universities
Douglas S. Massey, Camille Z. Charles, Garvey F. Lundy, & Mary J. Fischer

Paperback | 2006 | $37.50 | £31.95 | ISBN: 9780691125978
304 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 66 tables. 19 line illus.
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African Americans and Latinos earn lower grades and drop out of college more often than whites or Asians. Yet thirty years after deliberate minority recruitment efforts began, we still don't know why. In The Shape of the River, William Bowen and Derek Bok documented the benefits of affirmative action for minority students, their communities, and the nation at large. But they also found that too many failed to achieve academic success. In The Source of the River, Douglas Massey and his colleagues investigate the roots of minority underperformance in selective colleges and universities. They explain how such factors as neighborhood, family, peer group, and early schooling influence the academic performance of students from differing racial and ethnic origins and differing social classes.

Drawing on a major new source of data--the National Longitudinal Survey of Freshmen--the authors undertake a comprehensive analysis of the diverse pathways by which whites, African Americans, Latinos, and Asians enter American higher education. Theirs is the first study to document the different characteristics that students bring to campus and to trace out the influence of these differences on later academic performance. They show that black and Latino students do not enter college disadvantaged by a lack of self-esteem. In fact, overconfidence is more common than low self-confidence among some minority students. Despite this, minority students are adversely affected by racist stereotypes of intellectual inferiority. Although academic preparation is the strongest predictor of college performance, shortfalls in academic preparation are themselves largely a matter of socioeconomic disadvantage and racial segregation.

Presenting important new findings, The Source of the River documents the ongoing power of race to shape the life chances of America's young people, even among the most talented and able.


"This is scholarship of the first order, a study that will influence thinking about our society for the next generation."--Jay Mathews, Washington Monthly

"This is a beautifully written book. Each word is so carefully chosen and the style so limpid that the text is a pleasure to read. . . . In short, this is a book that should be bought and read by every serious student of education."--Terence Kealey, The Times Higher Education Supplement

"This is a very valuable contribution to the sociological study of access to American higher education by ethnic minorities. It also contains useful information for campus personnel and academic staff. . . . [T]his is how social science should be written. . . . This book is highly relevant to those academic staff concerned with meaningful access for all to higher education."--Gerald Postiglione, Educational Review


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Table of Contents:

CHAPTER ONE: The Puzzle of Minority Underachievement 1
CHAPTER TWO: Sample and Methodology 20
CHAPTER THREE: Family Origins 46
CHAPTER FOUR: Neighborhood Background 70
CHAPTER FIVE: Prior Educational Experiences 87
CHAPTER SIX: The Social World of High School 109
CHAPTER SEVEN: Racial Identity and Attitudes 133
CHAPTER EIGHT: Pathways to Preparation 155
CHAPTER NINE: Sink or Swim: The First Semester 184
CHAPTER TEN: Lessons Learned 197
Appendix A.Survey of College Life and Experience: First-Wave Instrument 209
Appendix B.Construction of Social Scales 251

Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Douglas S. Massey:

Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by Camille Z. Charles:

Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by Mary J. Fischer:


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