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Intergenerational Stratification, Child Development and the Black-White Achievement Gap

July 2011

Wei-Jun Jean Yeung, National University of Singapore, Caroline Hodges Persell and Michael Chavez Reilly, New York University

Download '2011-22 NPC Working Paper.pdf'.


This paper combines theories of racial stratification with insights from developmental psychology to test hypotheses about how disparities in family, neighborhoods, schools, and peers explain the black-white test score gap among children of different ages. We focus on the previously unexplained gap among older children by adding multi-generational resources and out-of-home contexts data from the PSID, Census, and Common Core data. We found that differential resources available to black and white grandparents affect parental neighborhoods, mother’s cognitive skills, parental socioeconomic status and parenting behavior. These early disparities lead to black children having lower cognitive skills before school starts which have cumulative long-term implications for their achievement trajectories. Grandparent resources, neighborhoods, schools, and peers become more prominent determinants in the middle and high school years.

Child Well-being and Child Development, Educational Attainment, Race and Ethnicity