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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 for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. repec:eee:labeco:v:45:y:2017:i:c:p:59-78 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Victor Chernozhukov & Ivan Fernandez-Val & Blaise Melly & Kaspar Wüthrich, 2016. "Generic Inference on Quantile and Quantile Effect Functions for Discrete Outcomes," Diskussionsschriften dp1607, Universitaet Bern, Departement Volkswirtschaft.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. 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.
    8. Mohamed Arouri & Adel Ben-Youssef & Cuong Nguyen, 2016. "Ethnic and racial disparities in children's education Comparative evidence from Ethiopia, India, Peru, and Viet Nam," WIDER Working Paper Series 087, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    9. 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.
    10. 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.
    11. Boyd-Swan, Casey & Herbst, Chris M., 2017. "Racial and Ethnic Discrimination in the Labor Market for Child Care Teachers," IZA Discussion Papers 11140, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    12. 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.

    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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