Given the same level of family, school and neighborhood problems, black students are more likely than their white classmates to finish high school and enter college — according to new research from the University of Michigan and Cornell University.
Taking into account the unequal context in which black and white children grow up and go to school, the test score gap also narrows significantly — by more than 60%, according to the study, which followed nearly 130,000 Michigan students from kindergarten to enrollment. at University.
“Our analysis reveals a large gap in the social ancestry of black-and-white children entering adulthood in the early 21st century — and the toll this gap is taking on educational inequality,” the authors wrote.
Katherine Michelmore, an associate professor of public policy at UM’s Ford School of Public Policy, co-authored the study with Peter Rich, assistant professor of sociology and demographer at Cornell’s Brooks School of Public Policy. It will appear in this month Social forces.
Sociologists and policymakers have long sought to determine the extent to which family background, school quality, and neighborhood environment each contribute to educational differences.
Michelmore and Rich’s study updates that understanding for the era of No Child Left Behind, by tracking students fully educated after the passing of 2001 legislation focused on school responsibility and choice. Michigan provided an ideal case study, they said, because the students demographically reflect the nation and could be observed for 16 years, from 2002 to 2018.
The authors were granted limited access to student records through a partnership with the Michigan Education Research Initiative and the Michigan Department of Education.
The eligibility of students for subsidized lunches caused some degree of family economic hardship. About half of all white students have been disadvantaged at some point, compared to more than 90% of black students. The researchers also created indexes of school and neighborhood deprivation, including factors such as a school’s percentage of low-income students and average scores on eighth and eleventh grade math tests, or a neighborhood’s poverty and unemployment rates.
By controlling for disadvantage in each context over time, the scientists determined that, consistent with previous research, family sources account for the vast majority of black-and-white educational gaps.
“This finding implies that material differences in context that are inherited by black and white children — rather than individual effort — cause the large educational gaps we observe,” they wrote. “These trends have continued in the recent era of federal accountability reforms.”
After their family background, Michelmore and Rich found that schools — particularly schools that are highly segregated because of systemic wealth and housing inequalities — are “consistent,” disproportionately penalizing black students for long periods of time.
“Results from our study support concerns that schools are increasing black-and-white inequality,” they write, despite recent debates suggesting that neighborhood context primarily drives differences in student outcomes.
When they controlled for all three contexts together, the researchers found that gaps of nearly 13% in high school graduation and 17% in college enrollment were not only eliminated, but vice versa, and the differences in test scores were dramatic. became smaller.
Reinforcing those insights, they said, was a longitudinal methodology that more accurately captured the effects of economic hardship on students’ careers through college. Researchers often rely on data reported for a single year, they said, which can obscure the distinction between students who consistently, sporadically, or never qualify for subsidized lunches.
“If you just look at a snapshot, you’re missing the true portrait of a student’s economic problems in the family,” said Rich, a faculty affiliate at Cornell’s Center for the Study of Inequality. “That’s especially important for questions of racial inequality, because black children are much more likely to live in economic hardship for extended periods of time.”
Michelmore notes that children who grow up in poverty are less likely to enter college, regardless of race, but black children are four times more likely to experience chronic economic hardship than white children. That, she says, explains why we find this inversion of the enrollment gap when different degrees of hardship are taken into account.
“As education researchers, we’re often limited in the information we have at our disposal, but part of what we wanted to show here is that you can be a little creative with the data you have — taking into account the economic hardship in over time, for example, and it can make a big difference in the findings,” she said.
The authors say their analysis suggests the need for complex policy solutions to address systemic inequalities. Despite decades of ostensibly race-neutral policies, they concluded, black and white educational disparities persist as a result of a long history of racial exclusion that hindered black Americans’ access to homeownership, high-performing schools, college degrees, and high-paying jobs. has limited.
“We underline the relevance of this study for renewed attention to systemic racism as an urgent crisis,” they write. “Our findings strengthen the argument that uprooting systemic racism requires an ongoing confrontation with how this history distorts the opportunities of black and white in childhood.”
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Katherine Michelmore et al, Contextual origins of black-and-white educational differences in the 21st century: evaluation of long-term disadvantage across three domains, Social forces (2022). DOI: 10.1093/sf/soac098
Quote: Income, segregated schools fill black and white education gaps, study finds (2022, October 19) retrieved October 19, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-10-income-segregated-schools-black-white-gaps .html
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