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Colloquium: Jayanti Owens, Brown University

January 26, 2022 @ 8:00 AM - 1:00 PM

Double Jeopardy: Teacher Biases, Racialized Organizations, and the Production of Racial Disparities in School Discipline



Bridging research on the social psychology of individual bias with scholarship on racialized organizations, this article introduces the concept of “organizational disposition” as another layer of discrimination in schools. To understand Black and Latino boys’ higher rates of discipline that persist net of differences in behavior, I combine an original video experiment involving 1,339 teachers in 295 U.S. schools with organizational data on school racial and socioeconomic context. In the experiment, teachers view and respond to a randomly-assigned video of a White, Black, or Latino boy committing identical, routine misbehavior. I find that, compared to White boys, Black and Latino boys face a double jeopardy. They experience (1) individual-level teacher bias, where they are perceived as being more “blameworthy” and referred more readily for identical misbehavior, and; (2) organization-level blaming dispositions, whereby they disproportionately attend minority schools in which students of all races/ethnicities are perceived as being more “blameworthy” for identical misbehavior than they would be in predominantly White schools. Whereas most prior research examines bias at the individual level, this study develops a more comprehensive understanding of the production of racial inequality in school discipline by identifying a dual process that involves both individual teacher bias and the blaming dispositions of their organizational contexts.


I am currently the Mary Tefft and John Hazen White, Sr. Assistant Professor of Sociology and International and Public Affairs at Brown University, in the Department of Sociology and Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. I am also an affiliate of the Population Studies and Training Center and the Annenberg Institute. From 2020 to 2025 I am part of the William T. Grant Foundation Scholars Program. From 2013 to 2015 I was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I completed a Ph.D. in Sociology and Demography at Princeton University. I have worked at organizations such as the Urban Institute, Mathematica Policy Research, and the U.S. House of Representatives.

My research interests lie at the intersections of social stratification, education, race/ethnicity, organizations, and social demography. I study how the organizational contexts of schools and workplaces as well as the race and gender of individuals and their evaluators shape evaluations and, ultimately, lead to racial/ethnic and gender disparities in educational and economic outcomes. I am interested in how the features of one’s organizational context influence the social psychological processes through which individuals – those in positions of power within organizations as well as those in structurally constrained positions – make sense of diversity and difference within organizations, and the implications for racial/ethnic and gender inequality at the social and organizational levels.

On the one hand, I consider how people in positions of power, like teachers, parents, and workplace managers evaluate behaviors and competencies and make decisions about conferring punishments and rewards. I am particularly interested in how the same behaviors and competencies are differentially punished and/or rewarded based on factors such individuals’ race and gender and organizational culture. On the other hand, I examine how social context influences the ways in which students and job applicants, when targeted by race and gender stereotypes, manage stereotyping by modulating their behaviors, self-presentation, expectations, and achievement.

My research has been funded by the William T. Grant Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, the National Academy of Education, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Foundation for Child Development, the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Social Science Research Council, the Andrew Mellon Foundation, and the Institute for Clinical and Translational Research at the University of Wisconsin. Resulting work has been published in Social Forces, Sociology of Education, Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Social Science & Medicine, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Social Science Research, Sociology of Religion, and the Peabody Journal of Education.


January 26, 2022
8:00 AM - 1:00 PM