Racial Compass: Examining How Schools’ Racial Features Signal and Sort
Chantal Hailey

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



University of Texas

Primary Discipline

Policymakers invoke school racial climate concerns to anchor both advocacy and dissent for equity educational policies (i.e., changing school names from racial figures, ethnic studies curricula, racial-solidarity symbols, racial-affinity groups); yet, we have little causal evidence on what these features signal to families. To examine whether school racialized cues and racial composition influence students’ and parents’ school climate perceptions and school preferences, I will conduct four original survey experiments with parent-adolescent dyads. Respondents evaluate school profiles with randomly varied quality ratings, socioeconomic and racial compositions, and one racialized cue (school names, ethnic studies requirements, racial-solidarity flags, racial-affinity clubs). By using an experimental design, my study isolates the role of racial composition and other racialized cues in shaping families’ anticipated ‘fit’ and racial marginalization and their willingness to attend schools. It also reveals whether individuals from different backgrounds receive incongruent signals from the same racial cues (racial background, parents v. students, political orientation) and whether effect of schools’ racial cues depends on schools’ racial composition. Unearthing the hidden messages that families gather from school names, symbols, curricula, and extra-curricular spaces can inform districts about how shifting school features can exacerbate or mitigate racial disparities in belonging and educational attainment.
About Chantal Hailey
Hailey, Chantal
Chantal A. Hailey is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at The University of Texas at Austin. Her research is at the intersections of race and ethnicity, stratification, urban sociology, and education. She is particularly interested in how micro decision-making contributes to larger macro segregation and stratification patterns and how racism creates, sustains, and exacerbates racial, educational, and socioeconomic inequality. To understand these processes, she employs a range of methodologies, from quantitative analysis of administrative and survey data to qualitative interviews and experiments. Her study, Choosing Schools, Choosing Safety, uses the New York City High School Admissions Process as a case study to understand individual choices and stratification in education. Employing experimental and quantitative methods, Choosing Schools, Choosing Safety demonstrates how heuristics, racialized perceptions of safety, and racialized-gender school experiences induces divergent school choices across families’ racial, gender, and class backgrounds. Dr. Hailey’s other research projects examine how spatially- and racially-concentrated practices and events, such as Stop, Question, and Frisk and neighborhood demographic changes, shape students’ racialized educational experiences. Dr. Hailey’s work has been published in Sociology of Education, Educational Policy, Cityscape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research, and Social Science and Medicine. Different components of her research have been generously funded by the National Science Foundation, Institute for Education Sciences, Ford Foundation, Russell Sage Foundation, William T. Grant Foundation, and The Policy Academies. Chantal received her B.A. in Sociology from Howard University and a PhD in Sociology from New York University.

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