Which mentees benefit the most from same-race mentors?

Champion, B., Szlendak, Z., & Woodruff, C. (2021). Who Benefits Most From From a Same-Race Mentor? Evidence From a Nationwide Youth Mentoring Program. Brachel Champion. http://brachelchampion.com/files/mentoring.pdf

Summarized by Ariel Ervin

Notes of Interest:

  • Although same-race or ethnicity-matched mentorships are perceived to be more effective than cross-racial mentorships, their overall effects are unclear.
  • This paper assesses whether having a same-race or same-ethnicity mentorships has a bigger effect on mentees’ academic and socioemotional outcomes than cross-racial mentorships.
  • Findings indicate that mentees with a same-race or same-ethnicity mentor did not significantly improve more than mentees with cross-racial mentors.
    • Same-race or ethnicity mentoring improved…
      •  risk attitudes for Black and Hispanic youth
      •  self-perceived school ability for Black youth
      • truancy for youth in the other category
    • However, Black youth in cross-racial mentoring relationships were more likely to identify an adult figure in their lives; similarly, Hispanic youth in cross-racial mentoring relationships had slightly better grades after a year of their mentorships.
  • Race or ethnicity matched mentorships can still benefit social groups along different dimensions.
  •  Race or ethnicity congruence has a stronger impact on youths’ self-perception than youths’ attitudes towards adults or academic performance.

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

We identify the impacts of assigning a mentor of the same race or ethnicity on the social, emotional, and academic development of youth relative to assigning a mentor of a different race or ethnicity. Using the universe of matches from a nationwide youth mentoring program, we document that a rich set of pre-match observables are balanced across same-race/ethnicity match status. We find that Black and Hispanic youth assigned a same-race/ethnicity mentor had slightly faster growth in self-perceived school ability and attitudes toward risky behaviors after twelve months of mentoring, relative to cross-race matches. On the other hand, cross-race matched Hispanic youth had improvements in course grades and cross-race matched Black youth were more likely to report having a “special adult” in their life. In contrast to previous work on race-matching, we do not find improvements in grades or expectations for future educational attainment. Given that racial/ethnic minority mentors are often in short supply, these results imply matching on race or ethnicity at the expense of other desirable traits is not necessarily optimal.

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

In this paper, we estimated the effect of same-race mentorship relative to cross-race mentorship on the outcomes of youth who participated in mentoring for at least twelve months. We found that youth who were assigned a same-race mentor had almost no improvements relative to those assigned a cross-race mentor, on average. It is possible that both same- and cross-race mentoring have positive impacts for certain youth and negate each other when averaged across the entire sample. Heterogeneity analysis by the race of the youth revealed this is somewhat the case. Same-race matching improved self-perceived school ability for Black youth, truancy for youth in the Other category, and risk attitudes for both Black and Hispanic youth. On the other hand, Hispanic youth in cross-race matches had slightly higher grades after a year of mentoring, and Black youth in cross-race matches were more likely to identify a special adult in their life. It may also be the case that race-matching improves race-relevant outcomes. For example, youth in same-race matches may have better self-perceptions of their race or ethnicity, may have a more positive racial or ethnic identity or may better cope with experienced racial or ethnic discrimination. We cannot conclude that race-matching is not an important determinant for such outcomes as we do not observe them in the data.

Youth mentorship has been shown to have significant positive effects on a range of outcomes for children, and race-congruence is believed to be an important determinant of this success. We contribute to the literature on race-congruence by showing there are potential benefits to both same- and cross-race matching. Furthermore, when full race-matching is not feasible, organizations must choose how to allocate the scarce supply of eligible mentors to youth. We showed that certain groups benefit from race-matching along different dimensions. This heterogeneity in the same-race premium as well as identifying the scenarios when cross-race benefits outweigh same-race benefits are critical for understanding how to efficiently allocate racial/ethnic minority mentors in the presence of supply constraints. Our results suggest that policy makers in areas with higher proportions of racial and ethnic minorities, should consider the additional benefits of policies that lessen these supply constraints for youth mentoring programs. For example, the State of Colorado offers tax credits equal to 50% of donations to the BBBS program.

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