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Race, Children's Cognitive Achievement and The Bell Curve

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  • Janet Currie
  • Duncan Thomas

Abstract

In The Bell Curve, Herrnstein and Murray demonstrate that a mother's score on the Armed Forces Qualification Test is a powerful predictor of her child's score on a cognitive achievement test. We replicate this finding. However, even after controlling for maternal scores, there are significant gaps in the scores of black and white children which suggests that maternal scores are not all that matter. In fact, both maternal education and income are important determinants of child test scores, conditional on maternal AFQT. We argue that racial gaps in test scores matter because even within families, children with higher scores are less likely to repeat grades. However, conditional on both child test scores and maternal AFQT, maternal education and income also affect a child's probability of grade repetition. We conclude that, even if one accepts test scores as valid measures of 'nature', both nature and nurture matter. Finally, we show that the effects on child test scores of maternal test scores, education, and income differ dramatically depending on the nature of the test, the age of the child, and race. The results suggest that understanding the relationships between different aspects of maternal achievement and child outcomes may help us unravel the complex process through which poverty is transmitted across generations.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 5240.

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Date of creation: Aug 1995
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Publication status: published as (Published as "The Inter-generational Transmission of "Intelligence": Downthe Slippery Slopes of The Bell Curve") Industrial Relations, Vol. 38, no. 3 (July 1999): 297-330.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5240

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  1. Hardle, W., 1992. "Applied Nonparametric Methods," Papers 9204, Catholique de Louvain - Institut de statistique.
  2. Janet Currie & Duncan Thomas, 1993. "Does Head Start Make a Difference?," NBER Working Papers 4406, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Neal, Derek A & Johnson, William R, 1996. "The Role of Premarket Factors in Black-White Wage Differences," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(5), pages 869-95, October.
  4. Sanders Korenman & Christopher Winship, 1995. "A Reanalysis of The Bell Curve," NBER Working Papers 5230, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Oliver LINTON, . "Applied nonparametric methods," Statistic und Oekonometrie 9312, Humboldt Universitaet Berlin.
  6. Korenman, Sanders & Miller, Jane E. & Sjaastad, John E., 1995. "Long-term poverty and child development in the United States: Results from the NLSY," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 17(1-2), pages 127-155.
  7. Goldberger, A.S. & Manski, C.F., 1995. "Review Article: The Bell Curve by Herrnstein and Murray," Working papers 9502, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
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Cited by:
  1. Fernando Galindo-Rueda & Anna Vignoles, 2003. "Class Ridden or Meritocratic? An Economic Analysis of Recent Changes in Britain," CEE Discussion Papers 0032, Centre for the Economics of Education, LSE.
  2. Andrew W. Horowitz & Andre Portela Souza, 2004. "The Dispersion of Intra-Household Human Capital Across Children: A Measurement Strategy and Evidence," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 0408, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
  3. Erik Plug & Wim Vijverberg, 2003. "Schooling, Family Background, and Adoption: Is It Nature or Is It Nurture?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(3), pages 611-641, June.
  4. Pierre Lefebvre & Philip Merrigan, 1998. "Work Schedules, Job Characteristics, Parenting Practices and Children's Outcomes," Cahiers de recherche CREFE / CREFE Working Papers 77, CREFE, Université du Québec à Montréal.
  5. Gonzalo Olcina Vauteren & Luisa Escriche, 2006. "Education And Family Income: Can Poor Children Signal Their Talent?," Working Papers. Serie AD 2006-20, Instituto Valenciano de Investigaciones Económicas, S.A. (Ivie).
  6. Andrew W. Horowitz & Andre Portela Souza, 2004. "Inequality in Child Academic Achievement in Single Parent Households: Evidence from Brazil," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 0425, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
  7. Pierre Lefebvre & Philip Merrigan, 1998. "Family Background, Family Income, Maternal Work and Child Development," Cahiers de recherche CREFE / CREFE Working Papers 78, CREFE, Université du Québec à Montréal.

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