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Understanding the Black-White Test Score Gap in the First Two Years of School

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  • Roland G. Fryer, Jr.
  • Steven D. Levitt

Abstract

In previous research, a substantial gap in test scores between White and Black students persists, even after controlling for a wide range of observable characteristics. Using a newly available data set (Early Childhood Longitudinal Study), we demonstrate that in stark contrast to earlier studies, the Black-White test score gap among incoming kindergartners disappears when we control for a small number of covariates. Over the first two years of school, however, Blacks lose substantial ground relative to other races. There is suggestive evidence that differences in school quality may be an important part of the explanation. None of the other hypotheses we test to explain why Blacks are losing ground receive any empirical backing. The difference between our findings and previous research is consistent with real gains made by recent cohorts of Blacks, although other explanations are also possible.

Suggested Citation

  • Roland G. Fryer, Jr. & Steven D. Levitt, 2002. "Understanding the Black-White Test Score Gap in the First Two Years of School," NBER Working Papers 8975, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8975
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Currie, Janet & Thomas, Duncan, 1995. "Does Head Start Make a Difference?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(3), pages 341-364, June.
    2. Carneiro, Pedro & Heckman, James J., 2003. "Human Capital Policy," IZA Discussion Papers 821, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. William Rodgers & William Spriggs, 1996. "What does the AFQT really measure: Race, wages, schooling and the AFQT score," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer;National Economic Association, vol. 24(4), pages 13-46, June.
    4. Cook, Michael D & Evans, William N, 2000. "Families or Schools? Explaining the Convergence in White and Black Academic Performance," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(4), pages 729-754, October.
    5. Neal, Derek, 1997. "The Effects of Catholic Secondary Schooling on Educational Achievement," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(1), pages 98-123, January.
    6. O'Neill, June, 1990. "The Role of Human Capital in Earnings Differences between Black and White Men," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 4(4), pages 25-45, Fall.
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    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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