The Role of Health in Understanding the Black-White Test Score Gap

Carolina Milesi, University of Chicago
Aly Turner, University of Wisconsin at Madison

This study examines to what extent health disparities between white and black children account for the black-white test score gap. We connect two bodies of research – the elusive but persistent achievement gap between black and white children and the increasingly documented impact of early health conditions on educational success in adolescence and beyond. The analysis is based on nationally representative data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Class of 1998-99 (ECLS-K), which has followed children from kindergarten through fifth grade. Compared to non-Hispanic white students, non-Hispanic blacks have systematically worse health conditions, come from more disadvantaged family backgrounds and display lower scores in reading and math cognitive assessments. Childhood health conditions account for a non-trivial proportion of the black-white test score gap – between a fifth and half of the gap. The contribution of health to understanding the black-white test score gap, and educational inequality more generally, deserves further investigation.

  See paper

Presented in Poster Session 1