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Estimating Cognitive Gaps Between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians

  • Andrew Leigh
  • Xiaodong Gong

Improving cognitive skills of young children has been suggested as a possible strategy for equalising opportunities across racial groups. Using data on 4-5 year olds in the Longitudinal Survey of Australian Children, we focus on two cognitive tests: the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT) and the ‘Who Am I?’ test (WAI). We estimate the test score gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children to be about 0.3 to 0.4 standard deviations, suggesting that the typical Indigenous 5 year-old has a similar test score to the typical non-Indigenous 4 year-old. Between one-third and two-thirds of the Indigenous/non-Indigenous test score gap appears to be due to socio-economic differences, such as income and parental education. We review the literature on test score differences in Australia, and find that our estimated gaps are lower than most of those found in the literature. This implies that the test score gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children may widen over the lifecycle, a finding that has implications for policies aimed at improving educational opportunities for Indigenous children.

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File URL: https://www.cbe.anu.edu.au/researchpapers/cepr/DP578.pdf
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Paper provided by Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 578.

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Date of creation: Apr 2008
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Handle: RePEc:auu:dpaper:578
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  1. James J. Heckman & Jora Stixrud & Sergio Urzua, 2006. "The Effects of Cognitive and Noncognitive Abilities on Labor Market Outcomes and Social Behavior," NBER Working Papers 12006, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Carneiro, Pedro & Heckman, James J., 2003. "Human Capital Policy," IZA Discussion Papers 821, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Leigh, Andrew, 2010. "Estimating teacher effectiveness from two-year changes in students' test scores," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 480-488, June.
  4. Eric A. Hanushek & Steven G. Rivkin, 2006. "School Quality and the Black-White Achievement Gap," NBER Working Papers 12651, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Steve Bradley & Mirko Draca & Colin Green & Gareth Leeves, 2007. "The magnitude of educational disadvantage of indigenous minority groups in Australia," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 20(3), pages 547-569, July.
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