NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

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

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

NBER Working Paper No. 8975
Issued in June 2002
NBER Program(s):   CH   ED

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.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w8975

Published: Roland G. Fryer & Steven D. Levitt, 2004. "Understanding the Black-White Test Score Gap in the First Two Years of School," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(2), pages 447-464, 06.

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