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Names, Expectations and the Black-White Test Score Gap

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  • David N. Figlio

Abstract

This paper investigates the question of whether teachers treat children differentially on the basis of factors other than observed ability, and whether this differential treatment in turn translates into differences in student outcomes. I suggest that teachers may use a child's name as a signal of unobserved parental contributions to that child's education, and expect less from children with names that "sound" like they were given by uneducated parents. These names, empirically, are given most frequently by Blacks, but they are also given by White and Hispanic parents as well. I utilize a detailed dataset from a large Florida school district to directly test the hypothesis that teachers and school administrators expect less on average of children with names associated with low socio-economic status, and these diminished expectations in turn lead to reduced student cognitive performance. Comparing pairs of siblings, I find that teachers tend to treat children differently depending on their names, and that these same patterns apparently translate into large differences in test scores.

Suggested Citation

  • David N. Figlio, 2005. "Names, Expectations and the Black-White Test Score Gap," NBER Working Papers 11195, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11195
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Roland G. Fryer & Steven D. Levitt, 2004. "The Causes and Consequences of Distinctively Black Names," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(3), pages 767-805.
    2. Betts, Julian R. & Grogger, Jeff, 2003. "The impact of grading standards on student achievement, educational attainment, and entry-level earnings," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 22(4), pages 343-352, August.
    3. Figlio, David N. & Lucas, Maurice E., 2004. "Do high grading standards affect student performance?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 1815-1834, August.
    4. Marianne Bertrand & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2004. "Are Emily and Greg More Employable Than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 991-1013, September.
    5. Lillard, Dean R. & DeCicca, Philip P., 2001. "Higher standards, more dropouts? Evidence within and across time," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 20(5), pages 459-473, October.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Keith Head & Thierry Mayer, 2008. "Detection Of Local Interactions From The Spatial Pattern Of Names In France," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 48(1), pages 67-95, February.
    2. Disdier, Anne-Célia & Head, Keith & Mayer, Thierry, 2010. "Exposure to foreign media and changes in cultural traits: Evidence from naming patterns in France," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(2), pages 226-238, March.
    3. van Ewijk, Reyn, 2011. "Same work, lower grade? Student ethnicity and teachers' subjective assessments," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(5), pages 1045-1058, October.
    4. Cook, Lisa D. & Logan, Trevon D. & Parman, John M., 2014. "Distinctively black names in the American past," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 64-82.
    5. Maresa Sprietsma, 2013. "Discrimination in grading: experimental evidence from primary school teachers," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 45(1), pages 523-538, August.
    6. Agrawal, Ajay & Lacetera, Nicola & Lyons, Elizabeth, 2016. "Does standardized information in online markets disproportionately benefit job applicants from less developed countries?," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 103(C), pages 1-12.
    7. Price, Gregory N., 2009. "Obesity and crime: Is there a relationship?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 103(3), pages 149-152, June.
    8. Liu, Liqun & Rettenmaier, Andrew J. & Saving, Thomas R., 2015. "Voluntary disclosure of a discriminated against characteristic," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 120(C), pages 94-103.
    9. Francis Dania V. & de Oliveira Angela C. M. & Dimmitt Carey, 2019. "Do School Counselors Exhibit Bias in Recommending Students for Advanced Coursework?," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 19(4), pages 1-17, October.
    10. Naci Mocan & Erdal Tekin, 2010. "Ugly Criminals," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(1), pages 15-30, February.
    11. David E. Kalist & Daniel Y. Lee, 2009. "First Names and Crime: Does Unpopularity Spell Trouble?," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 90(1), pages 39-49, March.
    12. Cook, Lisa D. & Logan, Trevon D. & Parman, John M., 2016. "The mortality consequences of distinctively black names," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 114-125.
    13. Kwabena Gyimah-Brempong & Gregory N. Price, 2006. "Crime and Punishment: And Skin Hue Too?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 246-250, May.
    14. Kuppens, Line & Langer, Arnim & Ibrahim, Sulley, 2018. "‘A teacher is no politician’: Stereotypic attitudes of secondary school teachers in Kenya," International Journal of Educational Development, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 270-280.

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    JEL classification:

    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education

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