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

Author

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  • Heckman, James J.

    () (University of Chicago)

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. Policy should prevent rather than remediate. Voluntary, culturally sensitive support for parenting is a politically and economically palatable strategy that addresses problems common to all racial and ethnic groups.

Suggested Citation

  • Heckman, James J., 2011. "The American Family in Black and White: A Post-Racial Strategy for Improving Skills to Promote Equality," IZA Discussion Papers 5495, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp5495
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    Cited by:

    1. Anirudh Krishna, 2014. "Examining the Structure of Opportunity and Social Mobility in India: Who Becomes an Engineer?," Development and Change, International Institute of Social Studies, vol. 45(1), pages 1-28, January.
    2. Rasmus Landersø & James J. Heckman, 2017. "The Scandinavian Fantasy: The Sources of Intergenerational Mobility in Denmark and the US," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 119(1), pages 178-230, January.
    3. Gábor Kertesi & Gábor Kézdi, 2016. "On the test score gap between Roma and non-Roma students in Hungary and its potential causes," The Economics of Transition, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, vol. 24(1), pages 135-162, January.
    4. repec:eee:joepsy:v:60:y:2017:i:c:p:71-91 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Anger, Silke & Camehl, Georg & Peter, Frauke, 2017. "Involuntary job loss and changes in personality traits," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 71-91.
    6. Anger, Silke & Camehl, Georg & Peter , Frauke H., 2016. "Job Loss and Changes in Personality - Evidence from Plant Closures," Annual Conference 2016 (Augsburg): Demographic Change 145940, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    7. 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.
    8. 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).
    9. repec:spr:demogr:v:54:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s13524-017-0568-0 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Doyle, William R. & Skinner, Benjamin T., 2016. "Estimating the education-earnings equation using geographic variation," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 254-267.
    11. Esteban Aucejo & Jonathan James, 2017. "Catching Up to Girls: Understanding the Gender Imbalance in Educational Attainment Within Race," Working Papers 1701, California Polytechnic State University, Department of Economics.
    12. 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).
    13. 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.
    14. Zhen Zeng & Yu Xie, 2014. "The Effects of Grandparents on Children’s Schooling: Evidence From Rural China," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 51(2), pages 599-617, April.
    15. Marco Tonello, 2016. "Peer effects of non-native students on natives’ educational outcomes: mechanisms and evidence," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 51(1), pages 383-414, August.
    16. Giambona, Francesca & Porcu, Mariano, 2015. "Student background determinants of reading achievement in Italy. A quantile regression analysis," International Journal of Educational Development, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 95-107.
    17. Barry T. Hirsch & John V. Winters, 2014. "An Anatomy Of Racial and Ethnic Trends in Male Earnings in the U.S," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 60(4), pages 930-947, December.
    18. Ariel Kalil & Rebecca Ryan & Michael Corey, 2012. "Diverging Destinies: Maternal Education and the Developmental Gradient in Time With Children," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 49(4), pages 1361-1383, November.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    early childhood intervention; racial inequality; skill gap;

    JEL classification:

    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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