Race, Children's Cognitive Achievement and The Bell Curve
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA); Princeton University
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Economics
In The Bell Curve, Herrnstein and Murray demonstrate that a mother's score on the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) is a powerful predictor of her child's score on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT). We replicate this finding for PPVT and two related tests. However, even after controlling for AFQT, there are significant racial gaps in PPVT scores which suggest that AFQT is not all that matters. In fact, both maternal education and income are important determinants of child test scores, and their influences differ dramatically with the test, the child's age, and the child's race. These racial gaps in test scores are important because, even within families, children with higher scores are less likely to repeat grades. Moreover, conditional on child test scores and maternal AFQT, maternal education and income affect the probability of grade repetition. We move beyond AFQT and examine the effects of individual Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery sub-tests on children's scores. We find that those skills that are rewarded in the labor market are not always the same skills that are associated with improved child outcomes. An understanding of the relationship between different aspects of maternal achievement and child outcomes may help unravel the complex process through which poverty is transmitted across generations.
JEL Classification: J15, I2working papers series
Date posted: July 10, 1996
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