The miner's canary: A review of overrepresentation research and explanations

Federico R. Waitoller, Alfredo Artiles, Douglas A. Cheney

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

122 Scopus citations


The authors reviewed the overrepresentation research published between 1968 and 2006 to answer two questions: (a) What are the characteristics of overrepresentation studies? (b) How do studies frame the problem? Systematic procedures were used to search four international databases, and criteria were applied to identify relevant studies. Findings suggest that overrepresentation research has been mostly published in special education journals, the number of studies has increased over time (particularly since 2000), most overrepresentation research focused on the learning disabilities category and on African Americans, and most studies used quantitative designs. Overrepresentation research has been framed in three ways: a sociodemographic model in which characteristics of individuals and contexts are examined, a critical perspective in which power issues related to race are addressed, and a framework that examines the role of various professional practices in the creation and maintenance of overrepresentation. Implications for research, practice, and policy are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-49
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Special Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2010


  • Culturally and linguistically diverse students
  • Disproportionate representation
  • Equity in special education
  • Minority students
  • Overrepresentation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Rehabilitation


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