Changes in the black-white gap in achievement test scores

Larry V. Hedges, Amy Nowell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

141 Scopus citations


Two questions of scholarly and public policy interest concerning the well-documented racial difference in scores on achievement tests are How much of the racial difference ("gap") can be attributed to social-class differences between blacks and whites? and How much has the racial gap changed over the past 30 years? To address these questions, the authors analyzed evidence from seven probability samples of national populations of adolescents from 1965 to 1996 and found that black-white differences in achievement are large and are decreasing slowly over time. About a third of the gap in test scores is accounted for by racial differences in social class, and although this gap appears to have narrowed since 1965, the rate at which it is narrowing seems to have decreased since 1972. The two groups are becoming more equal at the bottom of the test-score distribution, but at the top, blacks are hugely underrepresented and are approaching parity with whites slowly, if at all.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)111-135
Number of pages25
JournalSociology of Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science

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