Skip Navigation
small NCES header image
Educational Achievement and Black-White Inequality


Major Findings

Background

The Present Study

Black-White Differences in Labor Market Outcomes

Black-White Differences in Educational Attainment

Black-White Differences in Educational Achievement

Conclusion



List of Figures

Full Report (PDF)
line Major Findings

The study reported here explored the relationship between black-white differences in educational achievement and black-white differences in a variety of educational and economic outcomes. Comparisons were made, first between overall average outcomes for blacks and whites and then between average outcomes for blacks and whites with similar levels of prior educational achievement.1 The major findings of the study reveal that:

1.  For women with similar levels of prior educational achievement, blacks earned as much, or more, per year as whites. For men with similar levels of prior educational achievement, black-white gaps in annual earnings were at least two-fifths smaller than black-white gaps for men as a whole. Black-white disparities in employment were, for young adults with similar levels of prior educational achievement, at least one-half smaller than black-white employment disparities for young adults as a whole.

2.  For young adults with similar levels of prior educational achievement, blacks were more likely to attend college than whites. Among college attendees with similar levels of prior educational achievement, blacks’ college completion rates were as high as, or higher than, the college completion rates of whites.

3.  Throughout elementary and secondary school, blacks scored lower, overall, on mathematics and reading tests than whites. Even for children with similar test scores one or two grades earlier, blacks generally scored lower in mathematics and reading than whites.

The black-white mathematics gap differed in size across grades, in a manner consistent with, but not necessarily demonstrating, a narrowing of the gap during elementary school, followed by a widening of the gap during junior high school and little change during senior high school. The black-white reading gap also differed in size across grades, but not in an entirely consistent manner; it grew wider between grades within two elementary school cohorts, but was narrower for cohorts observed in grades 9 and 12 than for a cohort observed in grade 2.

In general, the findings show that, for children and young adults with similar levels of prior educational achievement, the educational and economic performance of blacks relative to whites was substantially greater than the performance of blacks relative to whites as a whole. While blacks have lower levels of educational achievement, educational attainment, and earnings than whites, these disparities are frequently smaller, and are sometimes entirely absent, for individuals with similar levels of prior educational achievement. Factors other than differences in prior educational achievement may contribute to black-white gaps in achievement, employment, and earnings; nonetheless, blacks’ relative educational achievement during elementary and secondary school appeared to be highly correlated with their relative success in the academy and the economy.

Note: This study does not attempt to isolate the causal relationship between educational achievement and subsequent educational and economic outcomes. Rather, using educational achievement as an indicator for the cognitive backgrounds of children and young adults, it investigates the extent to which black-white disparities are present for individuals with similar levels of prior educational achievement. The comparison of outcomes for blacks and whites with similar levels of educational achievement does not indicate what outcomes for all blacks would be if their average achievement were raised to the level for whites. Educational achievement differences are correlated with many other possible sources of black-white disparities, some measured in survey data, others unmeasured.

1. Comparisons between individuals with similar levels of prior educational achievement involved (i) whites as a whole, and (ii) blacks with prior educational achievement similar to that for whites.

next >>   

Would you like to help us improve our products and website by taking a short survey?

YES, I would like to take the survey

or

No Thanks

The survey consists of a few short questions and takes less than one minute to complete.
National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education