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Determinants of academic attainment in the United States: A quantile regression analysis of test scores


  • Getinet Astatike Haile
  • Anh Ngoc Nguyen


We investigate the determinants of high school students' academic attainment in mathematics, reading and science in the United States; focusing particularly on possible differential impacts of ethnicity and family background across the distribution of test scores. Using data from the NELS2000 and employing quantile regression, we find two important results. First, the gaps in mathematics, reading and science test scores among ethnic groups vary across the conditional quantiles of the measured test scores. Specifically, Blacks and Hispanics tend to fare worse in their attainment at higher quantiles, particularly in science. Secondly, the effects of family background factors such as parental education and father's occupation also vary across quantiles of the test score distribution. The implication of these findings is that the influence racial and family background factors may have on academic attainment, which are commonly identified on the basis of a conditional mean distribution of test scores, may not tell the whole story the attainment discourse has to note.

Suggested Citation

  • Getinet Astatike Haile & Anh Ngoc Nguyen, 2007. "Determinants of academic attainment in the United States: A quantile regression analysis of test scores," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 16(1), pages 29-57.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:edecon:v:16:y:2007:i:1:p:29-57
    DOI: 10.1080/09645290701523218

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    Cited by:

    1. Kim, Sunha & Chang, Mido & Kim, Heejung, 2011. "Does teacher educational training help the early math skills of English language learners in Head Start?," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 33(5), pages 732-740, May.


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