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What are the Achievement Gaps?

  1. Achievement Gap in Race

    1. Black Students

Prior Education Predicts Racial Differences in Employment and Earnings

A government study finds that the black-white gap in employment and earnings is reduced significantly when educational achievement levels are taken into account. Young black women even tend to earn more than white women with similar levels of prior educational achievement.

Citation:
This Keytext reports some of the ideas and findings from the following source:

National Center for Education Statistics (2001).Educational achievement and black-white inequality.U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved August 28, 2002 fromhttp://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2001061. Pp. 11-21

To see other reports that originated from this same citation, go to the bibliography.

Young blacks have seen little improvement in employment and earnings compared with whites between the 1970s and 1990s. A report by the National Center for Educational Statistics uses four sets of data to determine whether the black-white gap in labor market outcomes is the result of differences in educational achievement and related factors.

The Racial Gap in Employment

The report finds that the civilian unemployment rate of young black workers was 4-10 percentage points higher than for whites. However, this gap disappeared for blacks with educational achievement levels similar to whites in both the 1979 and 1992 samples. Controlling for education reduced the employment gap by one-half to three-fifths in the 1983-1989 and 1986-1992 samples.

The remaining gap in employment rates may be due to skill differences not measured, differences in regional economies, or outright discrimination against black workers. However, "among young adults with similar educational achievement, educational attainment, and work experience, blacks and whites had similar unemployment rates," the report concludes (p. 15).

The Racial Gap in Earnings

Young black workers earned between 14% and 30% less than young white workers from 1979 though 1992 (see Figure 1). However, the report found no statistically significant racial gap in annual earnings for women in the 1979 and 1992 samples (see Figure 2). The earnings gap for women also was over two-thirds smaller in the 1986-1992 sample than the gap for men.

Figure 1. Black-White Gap in Earnings, Young Men

For blacks with educational achievement levels similar to whites, the earnings gap for black men was at least 40% smaller than for men as a whole (see Figure 1). The gap for men in the 1979 sample became statistically insignificant after controlling for educational achievement. Adding in controls for educational attainment and work experience also eliminated the statistical gap in earnings for men in the 1983-1989 and 1986-1992 samples.

Figure 2. Black-White Gap in Earnings, Young Women

Young black women tended to earn the same or more than white women with similar levels of educational achievement (see Figure 2). The difference in earnings when holding education constant was statistically insignificant in the 1983-1989 and 1986-1992 samples.

The report found similar results for the black-white gap in hourly wages. Black men earned about the same per hour as white men with similar background characteristics, while black women earned the same or more than white women with equal levels of educational achievement.

The Bottom Line

"Why is achievement such a powerful predictor of black-white differences in labor market outcomes, especially for women?" the report asks (p. 22). The answer may be that education creates skills required by high-wage jobs or brings access to better job networks.

The authors of the report warn that their analysis does not support any particular explanation and cannot rule out some employment discrimination against blacks in general or wage discrimination against black men. "The chief usefulness of the analyses reported here," the report concludes, "[is] that they confirm educational achievement as a powerful predictor of black-white differences in labor market performance" (p. 22).

Research Design:

The authors of this report include Cara Olsen, Jennifer King Rice, and Stephen Sweetland of Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., and John Ralph of the National Center for Education Statistics.

The analyses of educational and labor market outcomes used four sets of data (with standard errors adjusted for complex survey designs and multiple imputation used to account for missing data), including the:

  • National Longitudinal Study of the High School Class of 1972 (U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics). This sample looked at high school seniors seven years later.
  • National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1983-1989 (U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics). This sample looked at high school students who were seniors between 1976 and 1982 seven years later.
  • National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1986-1992 (U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics). This sample looked at students who were high school sophomores between 1974 and 1980 twelve years later.
  • High School and Beyond, 1992. This sample looked at students who were high school sophomores in 1980 twelve years later.

The analyses of educational achievement outcomes (with math and reading achievement test scores converted to 8th-grade standard deviation units) focused on four samples of children, including:

  • Cohort 1 of the Chapter 1 Prospects Study, which observed children between grades 1 and 2 from 1992 to 1993.
  • Cohort 3 of the Prospects Study, which observed children between grades 3 and 5 from 1991 to 1993.
  • Cohort 7 of the Prospects Study, which observed children between grades 7 and 9 from 1991 to 1993.
  • National Educational Longitudinal Study of 1998, which observed children between grades 10 and 12 from 1990 to 1992.

Statistical analysis was performed for each set of data to compare (mean) differences between blacks and whites, to compare differences holding educational achievement constant, and to compare differences holding multiple characteristics (educational achievement, work experience, parental socioeconomic status, and Census region) constant. Tests of significance were conducted at the p = .05 level.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is the primary federal entity for collecting, analyzing, and reporting data related to education in the United States and other nations.

 



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