Black youth in Los Angeles County face an accumulation of disadvantage, undermining their academic, social and economic success and placing them at greater risk of structural disenfranchisement  — not in school, not working and ensnared in the criminal justice system, according to a new study Beyond the Schoolhouse: Overcoming Challenges & Expanding Opportunity for Black Youth in Los Angeles County.

The study was released Oct. 10 by researchers at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies.

“Poverty, poor environmental quality and other negative factors, as well as a lack of access to healthcare, recreational opportunities and other services are as much a part of the experience of black youth in Los Angeles County as is their concentration in disadvantaged neighborhoods attending highly segregated, under-resourced schools that may be ill-prepared to meet their needs,” said Pedro Noguera, distinguished professor of education and the founder of the Center for the Transformation of Schools at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. “This accumulation of disadvantage compounds the educational challenges facing black youth and the schools that serve them.”

Despite California’s growing commitment to equity, on virtually every academic indicator – from achievement in mathematics and English to the completion of A-G requirements for entry into the CSU or UC systems of higher education  black students in Los Angeles County consistently lag behind their non-black peers. Black students also are more likely to face punitive discipline such as suspension or expulsion, have the highest rates of chronic absenteeism, and disproportionately attend schools the state has identified in need of targeted support that may lack critical resources needed to respond to the social and psychological needs of their students. 

Academic factors alone, however, do not provide a complete picture of the challenges facing black students. They are more likely than any other group to experience homelessness, to be placed in foster care, or to have a parent who is incarcerated. Many black students live in communities and attend schools that are highly segregated by race and income. The communities where many black children reside are also less likely to have parks and recreation facilities, and are more likely to contain environmental hazards that negatively impact the health and well-being of children and families, including higher rates of asthma and exposure to lead. 

“Where a child lives, whether they have access to healthy food, clean air, quality health care and other services, has a profound influence on their academic performance and the quality of schools they attend,” said Tyrone C. Howard, director of the UCLA Pritzker Center for Strengthening Children and Families and the Black Male Institute at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. “While a small but significant number of black children, mostly from affluent households who attend well resourced and racially integrated schools, graduate from high school and enroll in college, far too many black students in Los Angeles County face a dual threat of inadequate educational opportunity and support, and social and environmental factors that place their educational and social development at great risk.

We must address this accumulation of disadvantage if we are to improve educational and developmental outcomes for black students,” said Howard.

Read the press release