The (Un)Level Playing Field: How Color-Blind Educational Tracking Leads to Unequal Access

17 Pages Posted: 18 May 2013

See all articles by John Morgan

John Morgan

University of California, Berkeley - Economic Analysis & Policy Group

Thomas Triebs

Loughborough University - School of Business and Economics

Justin Tumlinson

University of Exeter Business School

Date Written: May 16, 2013

Abstract

Educational tracking seeks to group students by unobserved ability using measures of observable acquired skills. In a model where individuals have differential skills prior to beginning formal education due to differences in early childhood development (e.g. linguistic, cultural, or nutritional disadvantages), we show that color-blind tracking systematically underplaces minorities. As a result, minorities have, in expectation, higher abilities than non-minorities assigned to the same track -- regardless of track. A counterintuitive empirical implication of the model is that, conditional on tracking score and track, minorities will outperform non-minorities in subsequent testing following tracking. Affirmative action policies seeking to equalize post-tracking outcomes share similar flaws to color-blind standards in that the average ability of minorities assigned to the upper track remains higher than for non-minorities.

Keywords: Educational tracking, discrimination, early childhood disadvantage, equality of opportunity

JEL Classification: D21, D63, D83, J71, J78

Suggested Citation

Morgan, John and Triebs, Thomas and Tumlinson, Justin, The (Un)Level Playing Field: How Color-Blind Educational Tracking Leads to Unequal Access (May 16, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2266242 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2266242

John Morgan

University of California, Berkeley - Economic Analysis & Policy Group ( email )

Berkeley, CA 94720
United States
510-642-2669 (Phone)
810-885-5959 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://faculty.haas.berkeley.edu/rjmorgan/

Thomas Triebs

Loughborough University - School of Business and Economics ( email )

Epinal Way
Leics LE11 3TU
Leicestershire
United Kingdom

Justin Tumlinson (Contact Author)

University of Exeter Business School ( email )

Streatham Court
Xfi Building, Rennes Dr.
Exeter, EX4 4JH
United Kingdom

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