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Parental Educational Attainment and Black-White Adolescents’ Achievement Gap: Blacks’ Diminished Returns

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DOI: 10.4236/jss.2020.83026    15 Downloads   38 Views


Recent research has documented Minorities’ Diminished Returns (MDRs), defined as weaker protective effects of parental educational attainment and other socioeconomic status (SES) indicators for racial and ethnic minority groups. We aimed to explore racial differences in the associations between parental educational attainment and youth educational outcomes among American high schools. This cross-sectional study used baseline data from the Education Longitudinal Study (ELS-2002), a nationally representative survey of 10th-grade American youth. This study analyzed 10,702 youth who were composed of 2020 (18.9%) non-Hispanic Black and 8682 (81.1%) non-Hispanic White youth. The dependent variables were youth math and reading grades. The independent variable was parental educational attainment. Gender, parental marital status, and school characteristics (% students receiving free lunch, academic risk factors, urban school, public school) were the covariates. Race was the moderating variable. Linear regression was used for data analysis. Overall, higher parental educational attainment was associated with higher math and reading test scores. We found a significant interaction between race (Non-Hispanic Black) and parental education attainment on math and reading test scores. These interactions suggested that the boosting effects of high parental educational attainment on youth scores are systemically smaller for Non-Hispanic Black than for Non-Hispanic White youth. While high parental educational attainment promotes better educational outcomes for youth, this association is weaker for Non-Hispanic Black youth than non-Hispanic White youth. The diminished returns of parental education are beyond what can be explained by school characteristics that differ between Non-Hispanic Black and non-Hispanic White students. Thus, some upstream societal mechanisms, beyond quality of schooling, such as labor market discrimination and residential segregation may be also involved. Diminishing returns of parental educational attainment (MDRs) may be an unrecognized source of racial youth disparities. Equalizing SES would not be enough for equalizing outcomes. There is a need for public and economic policies that reduce diminished returns of SES for Black families.

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Assari, S. , Caldwell, C. and Bazargan, M. (2020) Parental Educational Attainment and Black-White Adolescents’ Achievement Gap: Blacks’ Diminished Returns. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 8, 282-297. doi: 10.4236/jss.2020.83026.

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