Abstract: California MSW Students of Color Experience with Discrimination: Implications for Student Engagement (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

California MSW Students of Color Experience with Discrimination: Implications for Student Engagement

Friday, January 17, 2020
Capitol, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Javier Garcia-Perez, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Kristen Brock-Petroshius, MSW, PhD Student, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Daniel Applegarth, MSW, Ph.D. Student, University of California, Los Angeles, CA
Laura Abrams, PhD, Professor, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
BackgroundResearch indicates students of color experience racism and discrimination within MSW education and field placements. They commonly experience the institutionalized racism of social welfare agencies as well as microaggressions and overt discrimination from fellow students and instructors. These experiences of covert and overt discrimination can thus pose barriers to an optimal learning environment for MSW students of color, which runs counter to the values of the profession. Additionally, the social work profession is significantly less diverse than the U.S. population. If the social work profession is to live up to its commitment of promoting equity and diversity in order to better represent the populations that receive services, the profession must address the lack of inclusivity. This study seeks to better understand student of color experiences with racism and racial stereotyping in MSW programs.

Method: A cross-sectional survey was administered online to MSW students in California in April 2018 with a sample size of 498 students of color. The population included; Latinx (n=289), Black (n=78), Asian (n=75), and Multiracial (n=56). Measures included the Stereotype Confirmation Concern Scale (SCCS), the People of Color Racial Identity Attitudes Scale (PRIAS) and a perceived discrimination scale (PEDQ). One-way analyses of variance (ANOVA) with Bonferroni correction were conducted to assess differences between racial groups. Pearson’s R was used to correlate scales.

Results: The sample mean for the overall SCCS was 3.2 (out of 7). The means for each racial student group were: Latinx (M = 3.0), Black (M = 3.51), Asian (M = 3.48), Multiracial (M = 3.41). There were no statistical difference between any two groups despite the overall model being significant (F (3, 371) = 2.82, p < .05). For the PRIAS, significant differences were found between groups on the level an individual adopts other racial identities (Immersion subscale) (F (3, 358) = 4.5, p < .01) and the amount of disorientation that occurs for individuals when racial dynamics are involved (Dissonance subscale) (F (3, 359) = 9.27, p < .001). Specifically, Asian students had significantly lower scores thanLatinx and Black students on the Immersion subscale, and Asian and Multiracial students scored higher on the Dissonance subscale compared to Latinx and Black students.  Last, higher levels of perceived discrimination was associated with greater concern over confirming stereotypes (0.49; p < .001).

Implications: Overall, MSW students of color who reported more experience with discrimination reported greater concern about reinforcing racial stereotypes. However, there were differences between groups on some subscales. Concern with reinforcing racial stereotypes adds an additional burden for students of color that White MSW students do not experience. This burden may cause students of color to behave in a more reserved manner and could potentially alter their contributions in field or participation in the classroom. Special attention should be paid to students of color experiencing discrimination and pressure to conform to dominant culture with the addition of targeted programing. Creating a space for students of color to express themselves authentically in relation to their MSW environments could prove to be beneficial.