Anjali Adukia, headshot
Harris Public Policy Assistant Professor Anjali Adukia

CHICAGO – New research by Harris Assistant Professor Anjali Adukia and Alex Eble, assistant professor at Columbia University's graduate school of education, Teachers College, will explore how messages about gender and race in elementary school textbooks can influence children’s beliefs in their own abilities and their subsequent educational decisions.

The effort has been made possible through a generous grant of more than $880,000 from the Institute of Education Sciences, the statistics, research, and evaluation arm of the U.S. Department of Education. Non-governmental sources will provide more than $133,000 in additional funds to support the effort.

The two-year research project will explore the extent to which exposure to implicit gender- and race-based messages in elementary school textbooks may contribute to disparities in educational achievement among youth from different populations, particularly with regard to race and gender.

This research expects to build on current literature demonstrating that influences at the earliest stages can change a child’s beliefs about his or her own ability – and those beliefs can influence educational achievement. Particularly in underrepresented groups, a child feeling that he or she does not have ability can cause a persistent disadvantage for that child.  This new work will provide insights into how messages relating to two key aspects of identity, used in an official educational setting, affect actions and educational outcomes over time.

To study this, the researchers will use machine-learning tools such as natural language processing and image analysis techniques to identify gender- and race-based messages in elementary-school textbooks used in Texas between 1985 and 2011. Texas mandated a standardized set of textbooks across the entire state.

The study will then pair these findings with administrative data to determine a relationship between the gender- and race-based messages to which students are exposed, and their academic performance and outcomes, including SAT and ACT scores, AP test scores and AP enrollment, employment status, and other factors.

More information about nonpartisan, independent Institute of Education Studies, which made this research possible, can be found at