One aspect of the human experience is the ability to develop self-perceptions based on social context. Latin American studies scholars have investigated educational attainment to document how ethnic groups of varying physical appearances experience economic opportunity (Monk, 2015, Paschel & Sawyer, 2008). Studies indicate that upward social mobility is often limited to European descent populations. This paper used an identity focused ecological approach to explore how social processes influence adolescent self-identities and postsecondary goals. Quantitative and qualitative measures were conducted among 737 high school students in two urban cities, Salvador, Brazil, and Cartagena, Colombia. Findings revealed that a), socioeconomic status significantly related to race and skin tone for both samples, b) those of African and Indigenous ancestry were more likely to experience discrimination, and c) those experiencing discrimination were less likely to apply for college. Thematic analyses illustrated that the most common barriers to college access were discriminatory practices, insufficient funds, and college entrance exams, however family support was the most common reason attributed to resiliency. In examining how national discourses of multiculturalism influence academic outcomes for marginalized Brazilian and Colombian youth, this study offers new ways of understanding the interplay between patriotic agendas and ethnic difference that impact social mobility, the future directions of nations, and international relations at large.
Keshia L. Harris, PhD is a developmental psychologist who specializes in mixed methods research on colorism and cross-cultural education studies among adolescents in the U.S. and Latin America. She is currently a researcher in the Youth Development and Supportive Learning practice area of the Research and Evaluation Division, at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). Dr. Harris has published in leading scientific journals and books such as American Behavioral Scientist, the Handbook of the Cultural Foundations of Learning, and the Handbook of Culturally Responsive School Mental Health: Advancing Research, Training, Practice, and Policy. She has recently been selected to deliver the keynote address for the 6th annual California Counseling Association Cruise in Baja, Mexico in July 2020. Dr. Harris holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Human Development from the University of Chicago, is the recipient of the Fulbright Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad fellowship, and has 10 plus years of experience teaching, counseling, and conducting research in public schools in the U.S., South Africa, and multiple Latin American countries.