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Testing for Racial Differences in the Mental Ability of Young Children

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  • Roland G. Fryer
  • Steven D. Levitt

Abstract

On tests of intelligence, Blacks systematically score worse than Whites, whereas Asians frequently outperform Whites. Some have argued that genetic differences across races account for the gap. Using a newly available nationally representative data set that includes a test of mental function for children aged eight to twelve months, we find only minor racial differences in test outcomes (0.06 standard deviation units in the raw data) between Blacks and Whites that disappear with the inclusion of a limited set of controls. The only statistically significant racial difference is that Asian children score slightly worse than those of other races. To the extent that there are any genetically-driven racial differences in intelligence, these gaps must either emerge after the age of one, or operate along dimensions not captured by this early test of mental cognition.

Suggested Citation

  • Roland G. Fryer & Steven D. Levitt, 2006. "Testing for Racial Differences in the Mental Ability of Young Children," NBER Working Papers 12066, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12066
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    1. Roland G. Fryer & Steven D. Levitt, 2013. "Testing for Racial Differences in the Mental Ability of Young Children," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(2), pages 981-1005, April.
    2. Roland G. Fryer & Steven D. Levitt, 2004. "Understanding the Black-White Test Score Gap in the First Two Years of School," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(2), pages 447-464, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Amine Ouazad, 2008. "Assessed by a Teacher Like Me: Race, Gender and Subjective Evaluations," CEE Discussion Papers 0098, Centre for the Economics of Education, LSE.
    2. Das, Tirthatanmoy & Polachek, Solomon, 2017. "Micro Foundations of Earnings Differences," IZA Discussion Papers 10922, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    3. Sandner, Malte & Jungmann, Tanja, 2017. "Gender-specific effects of early childhood intervention: Evidence from a randomized controlled trial," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 59-78.
    4. Victor Chernozhukov & Iván Fernández-Val & Blaise Melly & Kaspar Wüthrich, 2020. "Generic Inference on Quantile and Quantile Effect Functions for Discrete Outcomes," Journal of the American Statistical Association, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 115(529), pages 123-137, January.
    5. Nguyen, Ha Trong & Connelly, Luke & Le, Huong Thu & Mitrou, Francis & Taylor, Catherine L. & Zubrick, Stephen R., 2019. "Sources of ethnicity differences in non-cognitive development in children and adolescents," EconStor Preprints 205801, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics.
    6. Roland G. Fryer, Jr, 2016. "The Production of Human Capital in Developed Countries: Evidence from 196 Randomized Field Experiments," NBER Working Papers 22130, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Tymon Słoczyński, 2020. "Average Gaps and Oaxaca–Blinder Decompositions: A Cautionary Tale about Regression Estimates of Racial Differences in Labor Market Outcomes," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 73(3), pages 705-729, May.
    8. Raj Chetty & John N. Friedman & Emmanuel Saez & Nicholas Turner & Danny Yagan, 2020. "The Determinants of Income Segregation and Intergenerational Mobility: Using Test Scores to Measure Undermatching," NBER Working Papers 26748, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Robert W. Fairlie & Florian Hoffmann & Philip Oreopoulos, 2014. "A Community College Instructor Like Me: Race and Ethnicity Interactions in the Classroom," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(8), pages 2567-2591, August.
    10. Roland G. Fryer & Steven D. Levitt, 2013. "Testing for Racial Differences in the Mental Ability of Young Children," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(2), pages 981-1005, April.
    11. Arouri, Mohamed & Ben-Youssef, Adel & Nguyen, Cuong Viet, 2019. "Ethnic and racial disparities in children's education: Comparative evidence from Ethiopia, India, Peru and Viet Nam," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 503-514.
    12. Jade Marcus Jenkins & Sudhanshu Handa, 2019. "Parenting skills and early childhood development: production function estimates from longitudinal data," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 17(1), pages 121-147, March.
    13. Sandner, Malte & Jungmann, Tanja, 2016. "How much can we trust maternal ratings of early child development in disadvantaged samples?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 141(C), pages 73-76.
    14. Emma Benn, 2014. "Nativity and cognitive disability among children: a unique comparison with reduced selection bias," International Journal of Public Health, Springer;Swiss School of Public Health (SSPH+), vol. 59(5), pages 809-817, October.
    15. Arouri, Mohamed & Ben-Youssef, Adel & Nguyen, Cuong Viet, 2019. "Ethnic and racial disparities in children's education: Comparative evidence from Ethiopia, India, Peru and Viet Nam," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 503-514.
    16. Boyd-Swan, Casey & Herbst, Chris M., 2017. "Racial and Ethnic Discrimination in the Labor Market for Child Care Teachers," IZA Discussion Papers 11140, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    17. Brian Jacob & Jesse Rothstein, 2016. "The Measurement of Student Ability in Modern Assessment Systems," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 30(3), pages 85-108, Summer.
    18. Jens Dietrichson & Trine Filges & Rasmus H. Klokker & Bjørn C. A. Viinholt & Martin Bøg & Ulla H. Jensen, 2020. "Targeted school‐based interventions for improving reading and mathematics for students with, or at risk of, academic difficulties in Grades 7–12: A systematic review," Campbell Systematic Reviews, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 16(2), June.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General

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