The Importance of Segregation, Discrimination, Peer Dynamics, and Identity in Explaining Trends in the Racial Achievement Gap
After decades of narrowing, the achievement gap between black and white school children widened in the 1990s - a period when the labor market rewards for education were increasing. This presents an important puzzle for economists. In this chapter, I investigate the extent to which economic models of segregation, information-based discrimination, peer dynamics, and identity can explain this puzzle. Under a reasonable set of assumptions, models of peer dynamics and identity are consistent with the time-series data. Segregation and models of discrimination both contradict the trends in important ways.
I am grateful to all my colleagues and coauthors whose ideas, intuition, and work fill this chapter. Meghan Howard provided truly exceptional research assistance. Financial support through the Education Innovation Laboratory (EdLabs) is gratefully acknowledged. Correspondence can be addressed to the author at: Department of Economics, Harvard University, 1805 Cambridge Street, Cambridge MA, 02138. The usual caveat applies. The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Handbook of Social Economics Volume 1, 2011, Pages 1165–1191 Cover image Chapter 21 – The Importance of Segregation, Discrimination, Peer Dynamics, and Identity in Explaining Trends in the Racial Achievement Gap* Roland G. Fryer Jr.