Racial segregation and the black-white test score gap

Racial segregation and the black-white test score gap -...

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RACIAL SEGREGATION AND THE BLACK-WHITE TEST SCORE GAP * D AVID C ARD AND J ESSE R OTHSTEIN May 2005 A BSTRACT Racial segregation is often blamed for part of the achievement gap between blacks and whites. In this paper we study the effects of school and neighborhood segregation on the relative SAT scores of black students across different metropolitan areas, using large microdata samples for the 1998-2001 test cohorts. Without controlling for neighborhood segregation, we find that school segregation is negatively associated with black relative test scores, and also with relative education and employment outcomes measured in the 2000 Census. In models that include both school and neighborhood segregation, however, the effect of relative exposure to black schoolmates is uniformly small and statistically insignificant, while neighborhood segregation has a strong negative effect. Instrumental variables estimates that isolate the components of school segregation associated with court-ordered desegregation plans or the geographic features of a city are consistent with this result but imprecise. Models that include school segregation, neighborhood segregation, and measures of the relative exposure of blacks to other characteristics of their neighbors (e.g. education and income) show weaker effects of neighborhood segregation, suggesting that the socio-economic status of neighbors, rather than their race, may be the primary source of these effects. * We are grateful to the Andrew Mellon Foundation and the College Board for assistance in obtaining the SAT data used in this study, and to Jacob Vigdor, Jon Guryan, and Sarah Reber for supplying other data. We thank Florence Neymotin and Ashley Miller for outstanding research assistance, and Ken Chay, Nicole Fortin, Jeff Kling, Thomas Lemieux, Justin McCrary, and seminar participants at Berkeley, Columbia, Princeton, Syracuse, Yale, NBER, and the Universities of Connecticut, Illinois, and Maryland for helpful comments and suggestions. Card’s research was supported by a grant from the NICHD and Rothstein’s by Princeton’s Center for Economic Policy Studies. Department of Economics, University of California Berkeley, and NBER Department of Economics and Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, and NBER. Corresponding author: [email protected]; (609) 258-4045.
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I. I NTRODUCTION The racial gap in student achievement is a pervasive and divisive feature of American life. Black-white differences in standardized test scores lie at the core of the debate over affirmative action in college admissions (Bowen and Bok, 1998; Kane, 1998) and public sector hiring (McCrary, 2004). 4 The racial gap in test scores also figures prominently in the recent No Child Left Behind Act. 5 Many years before the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board decision, segregation was identified as a possible explanation for lower black achievement. 6 Consistent with this idea, studies since the Coleman Report (Coleman, 1965) have found that test scores are lower at schools with higher black enrollment shares.
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Racial segregation and the black-white test score gap -...

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