Journal Article: The Black–White test score gap and early home environment


Blacks, Cognitive Development, Developmental Stages, Home, Environment, Test Scores, Academic Achievement, Age Differences, Childhood Development, Whites


Yeung, Wei-Jun Jean; Pfeiffer, Kathryn M.


2009, Jun


Based on panel data for three age cohorts of children from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, we examine how early home environment contributes to black–white achievement gaps at different developmental stages and the extent to which early gaps contribute to later racial achievement gaps. We find large black–white test score differences among children of all ages even before children start formal schooling. Except for the oldest cohort, the gaps for all tests widened when children’s cognitive skills were assessed six years later. Racial achievement gaps in applied problem scores by grade three and letter–word scores by grade six, can be accounted for by child’s characteristics, family socioeconomic background, and mother’s cognitive skills. However, these covariates explain an increasingly smaller proportion of the black–white achievement gap as children advance to higher grades. Gaps in early cognitive skills are highly predictive of gaps at later ages, setting off a trajectory of cumulative disadvantage for black children over time. Our results underscore the key role of early home environment and the intergenerational roots of the persistent black–white achievement gap. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2009 APA ) (journal abstract)


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