Theorizing racial inequity in special education: Applying structural inequity theory to disproportionality

Amanda L. Sullivan, Alfredo Artiles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

40 Scopus citations


Despite decades of research examining the disproportionate representation of racial minority students in special education, our understanding of the complexity of disproportionality remains incomplete and much of the previous research was designed without a clear theoretical framework. This exploratory study applied a structural theoretical lens as a means of understanding racial inequity in special education across analytical scales, racial groups, and disability categories. The findings confirm differential risk of educational disability across racial groups. Based on the theory adopted, several hypotheses were tested regarding the relations of relative risk to district structural features, with conflicting results found.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1526-1552
Number of pages27
JournalUrban Education
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2011



  • disability
  • disproportionality
  • disproportionate representation
  • special education
  • structural theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Urban Studies

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