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Harming the Best: How Schools Affect the Black-White Achievement Gap

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  • Eric A. Hanushek
  • Steven G. Rivkin

Abstract

Sizeable achievement differences by race appear in early grades, but substantial uncertainty exists about the impact of school quality on the black-white achievement gap and particularly about its evolution across different parts of the achievement distribution. Texas administrative data show that the overall growth in the achievement gap between third and eighth grade is higher for students with higher initial achievement and that specific teacher and peer characteristics including teacher experience and peer racial composition explain a substantial share of the widening. The adverse effect of attending school with a high black enrollment share appears to be an important contributor to the larger growth in the achievement differential in the upper part of the test score distribution. This evidence reaffirms the major role played by peers and school quality, but also presents a policy dilemma. Teacher labor market complications, current housing patterns, legal limits in segregation efforts, and uncertainty about the overall effects of specific desegregation programs indicate that effective policy responses will almost certainly involve a set of school improvements beyond simple changes in peer racial composition and the teacher experience distribution.

Suggested Citation

  • Eric A. Hanushek & Steven G. Rivkin, 2008. "Harming the Best: How Schools Affect the Black-White Achievement Gap," NBER Working Papers 14211, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14211 Note: CH ED LS PE
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Richard Murphy & Felix Weinhardt, 2014. "Top of the Class: The Importance of Ordinal Rank," CESifo Working Paper Series 4815, CESifo Group Munich.
    2. Timothy M. Diette & Ruth Uwaifo Oyelere, 2017. "Gender and racial differences in peer effects of limited English students: a story of language or ethnicity?," IZA Journal of Migration, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 6(1), pages 1-18, December.
    3. David Card & Laura Giuliano, 2016. "Can Tracking Raise the Test Scores of High-Ability Minority Students?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(10), pages 2783-2816, October.
    4. Antecol, Heather & Eren, Ozkan & Ozbeklik, Serkan, 2013. "Peer Effects in Disadvantaged Primary Schools: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 7694, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. Diette, Timothy M. & Uwaifo Oyelere, Ruth, 2012. "Do Significant Immigrant Inflows Create Negative Education Impacts? Lessons from the North Carolina Public School System," IZA Discussion Papers 6561, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. McMullen, Steven C. & Rouse, Kathryn E., 2012. "School crowding, year-round schooling, and mobile classroom use: Evidence from North Carolina," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(5), pages 812-823.
    7. Richard J. Murnane, 2013. "U.S. High School Graduation Rates: Patterns and Explanations," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, pages 370-422.
    8. Diette, Timothy M. & Uwaifo Oyelere, Ruth, 2013. "Gender and Race Heterogeneity: The Impact of Increases in Students with Limited English on Native Students' Performance," IZA Discussion Papers 7856, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    9. De Paola, Maria & Brunello, Giorgio, 2016. "Education as a Tool for the Economic Integration of Migrants," IZA Discussion Papers 9836, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    10. Stephanie Potochnick, 2014. "The Academic Adaptation of Children of Immigrants in New and Established Settlement States: The Role of Family, Schools, and Neighborhoods," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 33(3), pages 335-364, June.
    11. Marco Tonello, 2016. "Peer effects of non-native students on natives’ educational outcomes: mechanisms and evidence," Empirical Economics, Springer, pages 383-414.
    12. Natalia Zinovyeva & Florentino Felgueroso & Pablo Vazquez, 2014. "Immigration and student achievement in Spain: evidence from PISA," SERIEs: Journal of the Spanish Economic Association, Springer;Spanish Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 25-60, March.
    13. Eric A. Hanushek & John F. Kain & Steven G. Rivkin, 2009. "New Evidence about Brown v. Board of Education: The Complex Effects of School Racial Composition on Achievement," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(3), pages 349-383, July.
    14. repec:eee:epplan:v:66:y:2018:i:c:p:53-62 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Natalia Zinovyeva & Florentino Felgueroso & Pablo Vazquez Vega, 2008. "Immigration and Students' Achievement in Spain," Working Papers 2008-37, FEDEA.
    16. Simón Borrero Escobar, 2017. "Longer school days, less teenage mothers: Evidence from Colombia," DOCUMENTOS CEDE 015817, UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES-CEDE.
    17. Richard J. Murnane, 2013. "U.S. High School Graduation Rates: Patterns and Explanations," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, pages 370-422.
    18. Kevin P. Mongeon & Shawn W. Ulrick & Michael P. Giannetto, 2017. "Explaining university course grade gaps," Empirical Economics, Springer, pages 411-446.
    19. Hynsjö, Disa & Damon, Amy, 2016. "Bilingual education in Peru: Evidence on how Quechua-medium education affects indigenous children's academic achievement," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 116-132.
    20. Richard Murphy & Felix Weinhardt, 2013. "The Importance of Rank Position," CEP Discussion Papers dp1241, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.

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    JEL classification:

    • H4 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods
    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy
    • J18 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Public Policy

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