The punishment gap: School suspension and racial disparities in achievement

Edward W. Morris, Brea L. Perry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

240 Scopus citations


While scholars have studied the racial "achievement gap" for several decades, the mechanisms that produce this gap remain unclear. In this article, we propose that school discipline is a crucial, but under-examined, factor in achievement differences by race. Using a large hierarchical and longitudinal data set comprised of student and school records, we examine the impact of student suspension rates on racial differences in reading and math achievement. This analysis-The first of its kind-reveals that school suspensions account for approximately one-fifth of black-white differences in school performance. The findings suggest that exclusionary school punishment hinders academic growth and contributes to racial disparities in achievement. We conclude by discussing the implications for racial inequality in education.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-86
Number of pages19
JournalSocial Problems
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2016


  • Achievement gap
  • At-risk students
  • Punishment
  • Racial disparity
  • School discipline

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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