Berends, Mark, Lucas, Samuel R., & Peñalosa, Roberto
How Changes in Families and Schools are Related to Trends in Black-White Test Scores
University of Notre Dame
Identify the relative contributions of changing family and school characteristics to the narrowing of the gap in black-white test scores over decades.
Journal Name or Institutional Affiliation:
Sociology of Education
Vol. 81, No. 4, pp. 313-344
- Analyses reveal positive changes for Black students relative to White students between 1972 and 2004, such as improvement in socioeconomic family background characteristics. Yet, some school conditions (racial/ethnic and socioeconomic composition) did not improve for black students, and despite some beneficial changes, inequalities persist.
- Overall, compared to students of the 1970s, HS seniors in the early 1990s were living with parents who were better educated and had higher occupational status.
- There was an increase in the proportion of students attending school with a greater proportion of black and Latino students than white students.
- Apparently, the closing of the gap in the socioeconomic composition circumstances of Black and White individuals was not reflected in the socioeconomic composition of schools that Blacks and Whites attended.
- Found an increase in the proportion of students who reported placement in the academic track between 1972 and 2004.
- Overall, changes in school-level means corresponded to a 76 percent -82 percent increase in the Black-White gap, depending on whether 1972 or 2004 coefficients were used. With the 1972 coefficients, changes in the means for school variables were associated with a 82.95 percent increase in the Black-White gap, and with the 2004 coefficients, there was a 76.51 percent increase in the gap.
- The increases in Black students' likelihood of being segregated in high-minority schools corresponded to a 62.50 percent increase in the B-W gap in math when scaled by the 1972 coefficients and to a 60.57 percent increase when scaled by the 2004 coefficients.
- Increases in the gap of the average school SES attended by Blacks and Whites were associated with a 5.93 percent to 13.25 percent increase in the Black-White gap in mathematics, depending on whether scaling relied on the 1972 or 2004, respectively.
- The improved socioeconomic conditions of Black students corresponded to the significant amount of convergence in B-W test scores. Changes in the family background measures corresponded to roughly a 40 percent decrease in the gap in B-W scores on mathematics tests between 1972 and 2004.
- Analyses revealed that increases in the minority composition of HS that Black students attended between 1972 and 2004 corresponded to a substantial increase in the gap in test scores.
- Increases in the number of Black students who reported academic track placement corresponded to a substantial decrease in the B-W gap in the mathematics test scores between 1972 and 2004.
- Despite the large gains in the family background measures considered here, black students continued to attend high-minority and low-SES schools.
Journal Article Empirical Research
Academic Achievement, Achievement Gap, Family, Math, Minorities, Racial Composition, SES, SES Composition, Tracking
Secondary Survey Data
Method of Analysis:
High School Seniors
Unit of Analysis:
- Students' math achievement and family and school characteristics that they could consistently measure over time across nationally representative cohorts of high school seniors.
- They analyzed measures that were operationalized in the same way between 1972 and 2004.
- Focuses on results for Blacks and Whites.
- 4 cohorts of HS seniors in nationally representative datasets: 1) National Longitudinal Study of High School Class of 1972 (NLS:72) 2) High School and Beyond senior cohort of 1982 (HS&B:82) 3) National Education Longitudinal Study senior cohort of 1992 (NELS:92) 4) Educational Longitudinal Study senior cohort of 2004 (ELS:2004)
- DV: Individual students' scores on mathematics tests (calibrate the math tests over time to be on the same scale, so it is as though students across cohorts had taken the same test).
- IV: Individual (race/ethnicity and gender), Family (parents' educational attainment, occupational status, and family income) and School Measures (socioeconomic and minority composition, sector and urban locale). Also included a sociopsychological measure of track placement.