“On every measure of academic achievement black students lag behind their white counterparts” (Austin-Smith and Fryer (2005)). This is a striking statistic: given the high correlation between income and education, understanding the cause of this achievement gap is key to designing effective public policy to promote social equality. David Austin-Smith and Roland Fryer (2005) use a signaling model to study how academic achievement became a characteristic associated with “acting white.” Among black peers, not working hard in school is a signal that you will remain in the local community and can be counted on. Fryer and Torelli (2010) goes on to test the explanatory power of the model using data on academic achievement and social status.
More insight is given Ruebeck, Averett and Bodenhorn (2009). They find that mixed race equals mixed identities: rather than choosing a predefined racial identity, mixed-race adolescents adopt certain characteristics that are considered black and others that are considered white
Austin-Smith, David and Roland Fryer (2005), “An Economic Analysis of Acting White” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 120 (2), pp. 551-583. http://www.economics.harvard.edu/faculty/fryer/files/Empiriccal%2Banalysis%2Bof%2B%2527acting%2Bwhite%2527_final%2Bmanuscript.pdf
Fryer, Roland and Paul Torelli (2010), “An empirical analysis of ‘acting white,’” Journal of Public Economics, 94(5-6), pp. 380-396. http://www.economics.harvard.edu/faculty/fryer/files/as_fryer_qje.pdf
Ruebeck, Christopher, Susan Averett and Howard Bodenhorn (2009), “Acting White or Acting Black: Mixed-Race Adolescents’ Identity and Behavior,” The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, 9(1). http://www.bepress.com/bejeap/vol9/iss1/art9/