Observing the Demographic Factors of Peer-Nominated Leaders in Urban Middle Schools


This study investigated the relationship between adolescent students' gender and racial/ethnic backgrounds and their likelihood of being identified by their peers as having leadership qualities. A survey designed to gauge peer perceptions of leadership qualities was administered to 1003 middle school students from three diverse public middle schools in a Northeastern US city. The survey asked students to nominate as many students as possible who possess specific leadership characteristics. Female students consistently received more nominations across all survey items at two schools. This pattern was observed for five out of the ten survey items at the third school. At a school with a Hispanic majority, Hispanic students received more nominations for most survey items than Asian, Black, and White students. Additionally, at a school with a Black majority, Asian students received more nominations for all survey items compared to Black and Hispanic students and for nine survey items compared to White students. The results indicate that students' gender and schools' racial/ethnic composition may have some influence on peer perceptions of leadership. Furthermore, significant differences in how youths perceive leadership among peers of different backgrounds may be indicative of bias. Educators and administrators can use this information to make sure that students from marginalized backgrounds have opportunities to grow as leaders.

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Copyright (c) 2021 Simon Daniel, Angela W. Wang, Maurice J. Elias