Original Paper

American Journal of Community Psychology

, Volume 49, Issue 1, pp 98-111

First online:

School Context Protective Factors Against Peer Ethnic Discrimination Across the High School Years

  • Amy BellmoreAffiliated withDepartment of Educational Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison Email author 
  • , Adrienne NishinaAffiliated withUniversity of California, Davis
  • , Ji-in YouAffiliated withDepartment of Educational Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • , Ting-Lan MaAffiliated withDepartment of Educational Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Ethnically diverse high school contexts present unique social opportunities for youth to form interethnic relationships, but they may also subject students to certain social challenges such as peer ethnic discrimination. With a sample of 1,072 high school students (55% girls; 54% Latino, 20% African American, 14% Asian, 12% White) attending 84 high schools, school context factors that protect students’ exposure to peer ethnic discrimination across the high school years were investigated with a three-level hierarchical linear model. Each spring for four consecutive years (grades 9–12), self-reported peer ethnic discrimination, interracial climate at school, and perceived school ethnic composition were assessed. At the school level, objective high school ethnic composition data were collected. Peer ethnic discrimination was found to decline slightly across the high school years. Above and beyond this decline, more positive perceptions of the school interracial climate and both objective and perceived numerical ethnic majority status predicted lower levels of peer ethnic discrimination. Taken together, the results highlight the significance of both objective (e.g., ethnic composition) and subjective (e.g., interracial climate) aspects of the school ethnic context to students’ high school social experiences.


Ethnic discrimination School context Adolescence Peers