Evidence and implications of racial and ethnic disparities in emotional and behavioral disorders identification and treatment

Paul L. Morgan, George Farkas

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

9 Scopus citations


We summarize our recent findings that White children in the United States are more likely than otherwise similar racial or ethnic minority children to receive special education services, including for emotional and behavioral disorders. We show how the findings are robust. We explain why our findings conflict with prior reports in education that minorities are overidentified as having disabilities due to biased or discriminatory eligibility procedures. The prior reporting itself conflicts with a large and rigorous body of research in public health, possibly due to the use of comparatively weaker designs and analyses. We conclude with a discussion of implications of our findings of these racial and ethnic disparities for policymakers, researchers, and practitioners. Greater efforts should be made to ensure that children with emotional and behavioral disorders, irrespective of their race or ethnicity, are being appropriately recognized and provided with the supports and services to which they are legally entitled. Potential mechanisms that may limit minority children's receipt of special education services for emotional or behavioral disorders include families being ill-informed about the symptomatology and treatment options for these disorders, limited access to health care, and implicit bias by practitioners who may be more responsive to White, English-speaking families when making disability evaluations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)122-131
Number of pages10
JournalBehavioral Disorders
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2016


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology

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