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The Importance of Segregation, Discrimination, Peer Dynamics, and Identity in Explaining Trends in the Racial Achievement Gap


  • Roland G. Fryer, Jr


After decades of narrowing, the achievement gap between black and white school children widened in the 1990s - a period when the labor market rewards for education were increasing. This presents an important puzzle for economists. In this chapter, I investigate the extent to which economic models of segregation, information-based discrimination, peer dynamics, and identity can explain this puzzle. Under a reasonable set of assumptions, models of peer dynamics and identity are consistent with the time-series data. Segregation and models of discrimination both contradict the trends in important ways.

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  • Roland G. Fryer, Jr, 2010. "The Importance of Segregation, Discrimination, Peer Dynamics, and Identity in Explaining Trends in the Racial Achievement Gap," NBER Working Papers 16257, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16257
    Note: LS

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Assar Lindbeck & Sten Nyberg & Jörgen W. Weibull, 1999. "Social Norms and Economic Incentives in the Welfare State," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(1), pages 1-35.
    2. Card, David & Rothstein, Jesse, 2007. "Racial segregation and the black-white test score gap," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(11-12), pages 2158-2184, December.
    3. Roland G. Fryer, Jr., 2006. "A Model of Social Interactions and Endogenous Poverty Traps," NBER Working Papers 12364, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Philip J. Cook & Jens Ludwig, 1997. "Weighing the “burden of 'acting white'”: Are there race differences in attitudes toward education?," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 16(2), pages 256-278.
    5. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2000. "Economics and Identity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(3), pages 715-753.
    6. 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.
    7. Jonathan Guryan, 2004. "Desegregation and Black Dropout Rates," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 919-943, September.
    8. Neal, Derek A & Johnson, William R, 1996. "The Role of Premarket Factors in Black-White Wage Differences," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(5), pages 869-895, October.
    9. Lundberg, Shelly J & Startz, Richard, 1983. "Private Discrimination and Social Intervention in Competitive Labor Markets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(3), pages 340-347, June.
    10. Case, A.C. & Katz, L.F., 1991. "The Company You Keep: The Effects Of Family And Neighborhood On Disadvantaged Younths," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1555, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
    11. Federico Echenique & Roland G. Fryer Jr & Alex Kaufman, 2006. "Is School Segregation Good or Bad?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 265-269, May.
    12. Federico Echenique & Roland G. Fryer, 2007. "A Measure of Segregation Based on Social Interactions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(2), pages 441-485.
    13. David Austen-Smith & Roland G. Fryer, 2003. "The Economics of 'Acting White'," NBER Working Papers 9904, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. repec:hhs:iuiwop:476 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Timothy N. Bond & Kevin Lang, 2013. "The Evolution of the Black-White Test Score Gap in Grades K–3: The Fragility of Results," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 95(5), pages 1468-1479, December.
    2. 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).
    3. Fischer, Stefanie & Stoddard, Christiana, 2013. "The academic achievement of American Indians," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 135-152.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J01 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics: General
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination

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