Among Vermont high school students, racial and ethnic minorities are significantly less likely to participate in any hours of afterschool programming than white students; among those who do participate, they do so less frequently than their white student counterparts.
At Vermont Afterschool, we believe that all children and youth in the state should have opportunities, such as access to quality out-of-school-time programs to help them grow into healthy and happy adults. Data from the Vermont Department of Health’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) can help us understand the extent to which such opportunities are being pursued by young people in the state. Roughly 20,000 high school students answered questions about their levels of participation in extracurricular activities on the 2017 YRBS. Just over two-thirds (68%) of students indicated that they participated in at least one hour extracurricular programming per week.
Out of the students that answered our question about the number of hours per week they participate in extracurricular activities, 19,350 high school students also responded to questions about their race and ethnicity. Among these students, 84% indicated that they were white and not of Hispanic or Latino origin. The remaining 16% of students indicated that they were a race other than white, more than one race, and/or from Hispanic or Latino origin. For simplicity in this analysis and write-up, these two groups will be referred to as non-minority students and minority students.
There were differences between the two groups in terms of how many hours per week the students tended to participate in extracurricular activities, including whether they participated at all. Among non-minority students, 32% did not participate in any weekly hours of extracurricular programming. This percentage was higher among minority students: 34% did not participate in any weekly hours of extracurricular programming in 2017. While this was only a 2% difference, it was significant at the 0.05 level of analysis.
Among the 66% of minority students that did in fact participate in weekly out-of-school time programming, the distribution of number of hours of weekly programming was skewed toward fewer weekly hours compared with the distribution of the 68% of non-minority students that participated in some level of weekly out-of-school time programming. In other words, white students on average participated in more hours per week of programming than non-white students. As seen in the chart below, non-minority students had higher percentages of students participating in the 5-9 weekly hours and 10-19 weekly hours categories. On a related note, minority students were more likely to participate in between 1 and 4 weekly hours of programming. In each case, the difference in percentages are small (2-4%, depending on the category), but in all cases the differences are significant at the 0.05 level of significance.
CHART: Distribution of participation in weekly out-of-school-time activities in terms of hours among VT high school students in 2017 (compared with participation by minority and non-minority students)
We know from past analyses of the 2017 YRBS data set that students who participate in higher levels of out-of-school time activities (up to 19 hours per week) are more likely to experience positive outcomes (such as enrolling in post-secondary education, feeling connected with the larger community, and earning good grades) and less likely to engage in risky and unhealthy behaviors (such as bullying, abusing opioids, and drinking alcohol). Therefore, the more students we see regularly participating in higher levels of quality out-of-school time programming, the more we can feel confident that young people in Vermont will grow up to be healthy and productive members of society. We want this for ALL students in Vermont, regardless of race, ethnicity, or any other factor.
It is vital that we strive to help program leaders ensure that their programs are equally accessible to all youth that would want to participate. Even in a relatively racially homogeneous state such as Vermont, it is still important to not overlook any factors that might result in certain students having more access to programs that others. We encourage program leaders to compare rates of minority students in their schools with their rates of participation in out-of-school time programs and activities. Are non-white students well-represented in out-of-school time programs, particular in those that meet for more than just a few hours a week? If not, can the reasons be understood? Are there any simple changes that can be made to help increase access for all? Or are there bigger conversations that need to be had? These conversations, while never easy and sometimes a bit uncomfortable are so important for closing any access and achievement gaps and helping to ensure equal opportunities for all.