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.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Baker, P. C., Keck, C. K., Mott, E. L., & Quinlan, S. V. (1993). NLSY child handbook, revised edition: A GUIDE TO the 1986–1990 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth Child Data. Columbus, OH: Center for Human Resource Research.
Barton, P. E., & Coley, R. J. (2010). The Black-White Achievement Gap: When progress stopped. Policy Information Report. Educational Testing Service.
Bischoff, K., & Reardon, S. F. (2014). Residential segregation by income, 1970–2009. In J. R. Logan (Ed.), Diversity and disparities (pp. 208–233). New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.
Burchinal, M., McCartney, K., Steinberg, L., Crosnoe, R., Friedman, S. L., McLoyd, V., & Pianta, R. (2011). Examining the Black–White achievement gap among low‐income children using the NICHD study of early child care and youth development. Child Development, 82(5), 1404–1420. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2011.01620.x.
Clotfelter, C. T., Ladd, H. F., & Vigdor, J. L. (2006). The academic achievement gap in grades three to eight. NBER Working Paper, (12207).
Duncan, G. J., & Magnuson, K. A. (2005). Can family socioeconomic resources account for racial and ethnic test score gaps? The Future of Children, 15(1), 35–54.
Duncan, G. J., Morris, P. A., & Rodrigues, C. (2011). Does money really matter? Estimating impacts of family income on young children’s achievement with data from random-assignment experiments. Developmental Psychology, 47(5), 1263–1279. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0023875.
Dunn, L. M., & Markwardt, F. C. (1970). Manual for the peabody individual achievement test. Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Service.
Fryer, R. G., & Levitt, S. D. (2004). Understanding the Black-White test score gap in the first two years of school. Review of Economics and Statistics, 86(2), 447–464. https://doi.org/10.1162/003465304323031049.
Fryer, R. G., & Levitt, S. D. (2005). The Black-White test score gap through third grade. National Bureau of Economic Research. Retrieved from http://www.nber.org/papers/w11049.
Fryer, R. G., & Levitt, S. D. (2006). The black-white test score gap through third grade. American Law and Economics Review, 8(2), 249–281. https://doi.org/10.1093/aler/ahl003.
Hemphill, F. C., & Vanneman, A. (2011). Achievement Gaps: How Hispanic and White Students in Public Schools Perform in Mathematics and Reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NCES 2011–459). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC.
Lacour, M., & Tissington, L. D. (2011). The effects of poverty on academic achievement. Educational Research and Reviews, 6(7), 522–527.
Lanza, S. T., Vasilenko, S. A., Liu, X., Li, R., & Piper, M. E. (2014). Advancing the understanding of craving during smoking cessation attempts: A demonstration of the time-varying effect model. Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 16(Suppl_2), S127–S134. https://doi.org/10.1093/ntr/ntt128.
Li, R., Dziak, J. J., Tan, X., Huang, L., Wagner, A. T., & Yang, J. (2015). TVEM (time-varying effect model) SAS macro users’ guide (Version 3.1.0). University Park, PA: The Methodology Center, Penn State.
Loeb, S., Dynarski, S., McFarland, D., Morris, P., & Reardon, S. (2017). Descriptive analysis in education: A guide for researchers (NCEE 2017–4023). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance.
Magnuson, K. A., & Duncan, G. J. (2006). The role of family socioeconomic resources in the Black–White test score gap among young children. Developmental Review, 26(4), 365–399. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dr.2006.06.004.
Murnane, R. J., Willett, J. B., Bub, K. L., & McCartney, K. (2006). Understanding trends in the Black–White achievement gaps during the first years of school. (Brookings-Warton Papers on Urban Affairs). Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.
Neal, D. A. (2006). Why has Black-White skill convergence stopped? In E. A. Hanushek & F. Welch (Eds.), Handbook of the economics of education 1, (511–576). New York, NY: Elsevier.
Pac, J., Nam, J., Waldfogel, J., & Wimer, C. (2017). Young child poverty in the United States: Analyzing trends in poverty and the role of anti-poverty programs using the Supplemental Poverty Measure. Children and Youth Services Review, 74, 35–49. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2017.01.022.
Phillips, M., Crouse, J., & Ralph, J. (1998). Does the Black-White test score gap widen after children enter school? In C. Jencks & M. Phillips (Eds.), The Black-White test score gap (pp. 229–272). Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.
Reardon S. F. (2011). The widening academic achievement gap between the rich and the poor: new evidence and possible explanations. In R. Murnane & G. Duncan (Eds.), Whither Opportunity? Rising Inequality and the Uncertain Life Chances of Low-Income Children (pp. 91–116). New York: Sage Foundation.
Reardon, S. F., & Galindo, C. (2009). The Hispanic-White achievement gap in math and reading in the elementary grades. American Educational Research Journal, 46(3), 853–891. https://doi.org/10.3102/0002831209333184.
Reardon, S. F., & Portilla, X. A. (2016). Recent trends in income, racial, and ethnic school readiness gaps at kindergarten entry. AERA Open, 2(3), 1–18. https://doi.org/2332858416657343.
Reardon, S. F., & Robinson, J. P. (2008). Patterns and trends in racial/ethnic and socioeconomic academic achievement gaps. In H. F. Ladd & E. B. Fiske (Eds.), Handbook of research in education finance and policy (pp. 499–518). New York, NY: Routledge.
Reardon, S. F., Valentino, R. A., Kalogrides, D., Shores, K. A., & Greenberg, E. H. (2013). Patterns and trends in racial academic achievement gaps among states, 1999–2011. Unpublished Working Paper. Center for Education Policy Analysis, Stanford University.
Rothstein, J., & Wozny, N. (2013). Permanent income and the black-white test score gap. The Journal of Human Resources, 48(3), 509–544. https://doi.org/10.3368/jhr.48.3.510.
Shiyko, M. P., Burkhalter, J., Li, R., & Park, B. J. (2014). Modeling nonlinear time-dependent treatment effects: An application of the generalized time-varying effect model (TVEM). Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 82(5), 760–772. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0035267.
Tan, X., Shiyko, M. P., Li, R., Li, Y., & Dierker, L. (2012). A time-varying effect model for intensive longitudinal data. Psychological Methods, 17(1), 61–77. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0025814.
U.S. Department of Education, Institute for Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics. (2017). 2015 Mathematics and Reading Assessments, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2015. https://www.nationsreportcard.gov/reading_math_2015.
Vigdor, J. L., & Ludwig, J. (2008). Segregation and the test score gap. In K. Magnuson & J. Waldfogel (Eds.), Steady gains and stalled progress: Inequality and the Black-White achievement gap (pp. 181–211). New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.
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, https://www.bls.gov/nls/nlsy79ch.htm
Conflicts of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
This study reports on publicly available secondary data. The authors did not have access to personally identifying information or contact with participants.
This study reports on publicly available secondary data. The authors did not have contact with participants.
About this article
Cite this article
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). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-017-0800-7
- Achievement gap
- Time-varying effect models
- Poverty gap
- Academic achievement