Much data has shown that non-White students are overrepresented in special education in the United States. This thesis explores the relationship between ethnicity, economic disadvantagement, and special education placement. The quantitative study examined all elementary students attending a particular northeastern Ohio school district in 2002. The data was obtained through the Educational Management Information System of the school district. In this sample, no relationship was found between ethnicity and special education for emotional disturbances, mental retardation, or specific learning disabilities. However, relationships between economic disadvantagement and special education, and ethnicity and economic disadvantagement, were present. This suggests that economic disadvantagement is an important factor in explaining the overrepresentation of non-White students in special education in certain communities. Several sociological theories help to explain the observed relationships, including Bourdieu's cultural reproduction theory and Goffman's concept of stigma. It might be useful for future research to examine additional variables that relate to special education placement, such as gender, grade level, and early childhood programming.


Hurst, Charles E.


Sociology and Anthropology

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis

Available for download on Thursday, January 01, 2150

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