Birth Cohort and the Black-White Achievement Gap: The Roles of Access and Health Soon After Birth

82 Pages Posted: 8 Dec 2008 Last revised: 27 Oct 2010

See all articles by Kenneth Y. Chay

Kenneth Y. Chay

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Jonathan Guryan

Northwestern University - Human Development and Social Policy (HDSP) Program; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Bhashkar Mazumder

Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: June 10, 2009

Abstract

One literature documents a significant, black-white gap in average test scores, while another finds a substantial narrowing of the gap during the 1980's, and stagnation in convergence after. We use two data sources – the Long Term Trends NAEP and AFQT scores for the universe of applicants to the U.S. military between 1976 and 1991 – to show: 1) the 1980's convergence is due to relative improvements across successive cohorts of blacks born between 1963 and the early 1970's and not a secular narrowing in the gap over time; and 2) the across-cohort gains were concentrated among blacks in the South. We then demonstrate that the timing and variation across states in the AFQT convergence closely tracks racial convergence in measures of health and hospital access in the years immediately following birth. We show that the AFQT convergence is highly correlated with post-neonatal mortality rates and not with neonatal mortality and low birth weight rates, and that this result cannot be explained by schooling desegregation and changes in family background. We conclude that investments in health through increased access at very early ages have large, long-term effects on achievement, and that the integration of hospitals during the 1960's affected the test performance of black teenagers in the 1980's.

Keywords: test scores, infant health, black-white differences, post neonatal mortality

JEL Classification: J01, I10, J24

Suggested Citation

Chay, Kenneth Y. and Guryan, Jonathan and Mazumder, Bhashkar, Birth Cohort and the Black-White Achievement Gap: The Roles of Access and Health Soon After Birth (June 10, 2009). FRB of Chicago Working Paper No. 2008-20. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1311992 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1311992

Kenneth Y. Chay

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Economics ( email )

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Berkeley, CA 94720-3880
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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Jonathan Guryan

Northwestern University - Human Development and Social Policy (HDSP) Program ( email )

2046 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Bhashkar Mazumder (Contact Author)

Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago ( email )

230 South LaSalle Street
Chicago, IL 60604
United States

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