Intergenerational Racial Stratification and the Black-White Achievement Gap

Wei-Jun Jean Yeung, National University of Singapore
Caroline Persell, New York University
Michael Reilly, New York University

This paper combines theories of racial stratification with insights from developmental psychology to test hypotheses about how family and out-of-home inequality (neighborhood, school, and peers) contributes to the black-white achievement gap among children at varying developmental stages. Prior research has found that family socioeconomic status and home environment account for racial educational achievement differences among very young children. However, the same set of covariates cannot explain the achievement differences among children in junior and senior high schools. We investigate the large unexplained racial achievement gap among older children by focusing on: (1) grandparents’ characteristics, (2) neighborhoods, (3) schools, and (4) peers. We draw data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, the U.S. Census, the Common Core Data on schools, and the Private School Survey. Results show that these characteristics, when combined with home environment, can statistically explain the differences in the black-white achievement gaps among older children.

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Presented in Session 114: Intergenerational Transfers and Social Mobility