NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Trends in the Black-White Achievement Gap:Clarifying the Meaning of Within- and Between-School Achievement Gaps

Lindsay C. Page, Richard J. Murnane, John B. Willett

NBER Working Paper No. 14213
Issued in August 2008
NBER Program(s):   ED

We decompose black-white achievement gap trends between 1971 and 2004 into trends in within- and between-school differences. We show that the previous finding that narrowing within-school inequality explains most of the decline in the black-white achievement gap between 1971 and 1988 is sensitive to methodology. Employing a more detailed partition of achievement differences, we estimate that 40 percent of the narrowing of the gap through the 1970s and 1980s is attributable to the narrowing of within-school differences between black and white students. Further, the consequences for achievement of attending a high minority school became increasingly deleterious between 1971 and 1999.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w14213

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