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Explaining race, poverty, and gender disparities in advanced course-taking


  • Dylan Conger

    (Assistant Professor, Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration, George Washington University)

  • Mark C. Long

    (Associate Professor, Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs, University of Washington)

  • Patrice Iatarola

    (Associate Professor, Department of Educational Leadership and Policy, Florida State University)


We use panel data on Florida high school students to examine race, poverty, and gender disparities in advanced course-taking. While white students are more likely to take advanced courses than black and Hispanic students, these disparities are eliminated when we condition on observable pre-high school characteristics. In fact, black and Hispanic students are more likely than observably similar white students to take advanced courses. Controlling for students' pre-high school characteristics substantially reduces poverty gaps, modestly reduces Asian-white gaps, and makes little dent in female-male gaps. Black and Hispanic students attend high schools that increase their likelihood of taking advanced courses relative to observably similar white students; this advantage is largely driven by minorities disproportionately attending magnet schools. Finally, recent federal and state efforts aimed at increasing access to advanced courses to poor and minority students appear to have succeeded in raising the share of students who take advanced courses from 2003 to 2006. However, secular trends (or spillovers of the policies to non-poor, non-minority students) have spurred faster growth for other students, contributing to widening demographic gaps in these years. © 2009 by the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.

Suggested Citation

  • Dylan Conger & Mark C. Long & Patrice Iatarola, 2009. "Explaining race, poverty, and gender disparities in advanced course-taking," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 28(4), pages 555-576.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:jpamgt:v:28:y:2009:i:4:p:555-576
    DOI: 10.1002/pam.20455

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    3. James J. Heckman & Paul A. LaFontaine, 2010. "The American High School Graduation Rate: Trends and Levels," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(2), pages 244-262, May.
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    5. Leanna Stiefel & Amy Ellen Schwartz & Ingrid Gould Ellen, 2007. "Disentangling the racial test score gap: Probing the evidence in a large urban school district," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 26(1), pages 7-30.
    6. Lorenzo Cappellari & Stephen P. Jenkins, 2003. "Multivariate probit regression using simulated maximum likelihood," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 3(3), pages 278-294, September.
    7. Geiser, Saul & Santelices, Veronica, 2004. "The Role of Advanced Placement and Honors Courses in College Admissions," University of California at Berkeley, Center for Studies in Higher Education qt3ft1g8rz, Center for Studies in Higher Education, UC Berkeley.
    8. Patrick Royston, 2004. "Multiple imputation of missing values," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 4(3), pages 227-241, September.
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    10. Klopfenstein, Kristin, 2004. "Advanced Placement: do minorities have equal opportunity?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 115-131, April.
    11. Mark C. Long & Patrice Iatarola & Dylan Conger, 2009. "Explaining Gaps in Readiness for College-Level Math: The Role of High School Courses," Education Finance and Policy, MIT Press, vol. 4(1), pages 1-33, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Chris Ryan, 2017. "Secondary School Teacher Effects on Student Achievement in Australian Schools," Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series wp2017n11, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne.
    2. Vi-Nhuan Le & Louis T. Mariano & Susannah Faxon-Mills, 2016. "Can College Outreach Programs Improve College Readiness? The Case of the College Bound, St. Louis Program," Research in Higher Education, Springer;Association for Institutional Research, vol. 57(3), pages 261-287, May.
    3. Dougherty, Shaun M. & Goodman, Joshua S. & Hill, Darryl V. & Litke, Erica G. & Page, Lindsay C., 2017. "Objective course placement and college readiness: Evidence from targeted middle school math acceleration," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 141-161.

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