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A Two Decade Examination of Historical Race/Ethnicity Disparities in Academic Achievement by Poverty Status


Research on achievement gaps by race/ethnicity and poverty status typically focuses on each gap separately, and recent syntheses suggest the poverty gap is growing while racial/ethnic gaps are narrowing. In this study, we used time-varying effect modeling to examine the interaction of race/ethnicity and poverty gaps in math and reading achievement from 1986–2005 for poor and non-poor White, Black, and Hispanic students in three age groups (5–6, 9–10, and 13–14). We found that across this twenty-year period, the gaps between poor White students and their poor Black and Hispanic peers grew, while the gap between non-poor Whites and Hispanics narrowed. We conclude that understanding the nature of achievement gaps requires simultaneous examination of race/ethnicity and income.

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Authors’ Contributions

K.W.P., E.T.G., and M.K. all contributed to the conceptualization of research questions. K.W.P. lead the analysis and write-up, with help in the introduction and discussion by E.T.G. E.T.G. also copyedited the manuscript. M.K. provided consultation on analyses, graphical representations, interpretation, and overall editing. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


The authors’ research is supported in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation (1519686, Principal Investigators (PIs): Elizabeth Gershoff and Robert Crosnoe). The views expressed here belong to the authors and do not reflect the views or policies of the funding agency.

Data Sharing Declaration

The datasets analyzed during the current study are available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics,

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Correspondence to Katherine W. Paschall.

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This study reports on publicly available secondary data. The authors did not have access to personally identifying information or contact with participants.

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This study reports on publicly available secondary data. The authors did not have contact with participants.

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Paschall, K.W., Gershoff, E.T. & Kuhfeld, M. A Two Decade Examination of Historical Race/Ethnicity Disparities in Academic Achievement by Poverty Status. J Youth Adolescence 47, 1164–1177 (2018).

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  • Achievement gap
  • Time-varying effect models
  • Poverty gap
  • Academic achievement