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The American Family in Black and White: A Post-Racial Strategy for Improving Skills to Promote Equality

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  • James J. Heckman

Abstract

In contemporary America, racial gaps in achievement are primarily due to gaps in skills. Skill gaps emerge early before children enter school. Families are major producers of those skills. Inequality in performance in school is strongly linked to inequality in family environments. Schools do little to reduce or enlarge the gaps in skills that are present when children enter school. Parenting matters, and the true measure of child advantage and disadvantage is the quality of parenting received. A growing fraction of American children across all race and ethnic groups is being raised in dysfunctional families. Investment in the early lives of children in disadvantaged families will help close achievement gaps. America currently relies too much on schools and adolescent remediation strategies to solve problems that start in the preschool years. Prevention is likely to be more cost-effective than remediation. Voluntary, culturally sensitive support for parenting is a politically and economically palatable strategy that addresses problems common to all racial and ethnic groups.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 16841.

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Date of creation: Mar 2011
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Publication status: published as “The American Family in Black & White: A Post-Racial Strategy for Improving Skills to Promote Equality,” Daedalus , 140 (2):70–89. (2011).
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16841

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Cited by:
  1. Frijters, Paul & Johnston, David W. & Shields, Michael A., 2011. "Destined for (Un)Happiness: Does Childhood Predict Adult Life Satisfaction?," IZA Discussion Papers 5819, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Vincent Corluy & Gerlinde Verbist, 2014. "Can education bridge the gap? Education and the employment position of immigrants in Belgium," ImPRovE Working Papers 14/02, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp.
  3. Ariel Kalil & Rebecca Ryan & Michael Corey, 2012. "Diverging Destinies: Maternal Education and the Developmental Gradient in Time With Children," Demography, Springer, vol. 49(4), pages 1361-1383, November.
  4. Sandner, Malte, 2013. "Effects of Early Childhood Intervention on Child Development and Early Skill Formation. Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial," Hannover Economic Papers (HEP) dp-518, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Wirtschaftswissenschaftliche Fakultät.
  5. Zhen Zeng & Yu Xie, 2014. "The Effects of Grandparents on Children’s Schooling: Evidence From Rural China," Demography, Springer, vol. 51(2), pages 599-617, April.
  6. Marco Tonello, 2011. "Mechanisms of peer interactions between native and non-native students: rejection or integration?," Working Papers 2011/21, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
  7. Gabor Kertesi & Gabor Kezdi, 2014. "On the test score gap between Roma and non-Roma students in Hungary and its potential causes," Budapest Working Papers on the Labour Market 1401, Institute of Economics, Centre for Economic and Regional Studies, Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

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