Have Income-Based Achievement Gaps Widened or Narrowed?
73 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2020 Last revised: 24 Mar 2022
Date Written: August 2020
Over the past 30 years, rising income inequality and income-based residential segregation have threatened to widen income-based achievement gaps, even as school accountability and school finance reform efforts have attempted to narrow them. Yet, no national dataset measures both parental income and achievement in a consistent way for individual students over time. We take two alternative approaches to inferring income-based achievement gaps: First, we reconstruct the student-level relationship using school-level estimates of means and variances of achievement and income. Second, we combine estimates of mean income by race, mother’s education, urbanicity and state with mean achievement for the corresponding subgroups on a national assessment. Using both methods, we find that income-based achievement gaps in 4th and 8th grade narrowed between 1992 and 2015—while math scores rose at all income levels.
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