In this post, I will review studies comparing the predictive validity of cognitive ability and parental socioeconomic status (SES) on academic achievement. Parental SES is usually measured via some combination of parental income, educational attainment, and occupational status. Academic achievement is measured either through grades or achievement test scores. A clear picture emerges from each study cited in this post: cognitive ability is a far superior predictor of academic achievement than is parental SES.
The purpose of this post is to provide a comprehensive overview of racial and ethnic disparities on cognitive and academic tests in the United States. The primary focus is on black and white Americans because most data focuses on comparing these groups, but I’ll also mention disparities for other groups (mainly Hispanics and Asians) when such data is available. I start by reviewing data on the magnitude of racial disparities in cognitive ability. Next, I consider racial disparities in other kinds of tests, including college admissions and academic achievement tests, finding that these disparities are about as large as disparities in cognitive ability. Then, to better contextualize the magnitude of racial disparities in test scores, I compare racial gaps to gaps between other groups, such as students from different countries or different levels of socioeconomic status. Finally, I present data on the ubiquity of test score gaps, showing that the gaps persist through all levels of education, across all geographical units of analysis, and across all socioeconomic levels.
In a previous post, I cited several studies showing that racial disparities in many important social outcomes are largely driven by racial disparities in cognitive ability. This post will expand on those findings by demonstrating similar patterns in 3 nationally representative datasets that I have not yet considered elsewhere. The datasets include data on socioeconomic outcomes from the early 1990s to early 2010s. I will examine how racial disparities in educational attainment, occupational prestige, and income (the three primary measures of socioeconomic status, as explained here) are related to various factors such as parental income, high school academic achievement, and family structure. My main focus is on disparities between blacks and whites, where I find that the vast majority (over 90%) of the adulthood income gap is explained by some combination of the aforementioned factors, and virtually all of the disparity in educational attainment and occupational prestige are explained by high school achievement.
In this post, I explore racial disparities in intergenerational mobility, i.e. racial disparities in offspring outcomes after controlling for parental achievement on the same outcome. The primary focus is on black-white disparities in income mobility, i.e. the finding that black children have lower incomes than white children with similar parental incomes. However, other racial groups and socioeconomic outcomes will be considered when data is available. I start by documenting racial disparities in various socioeconomic outcomes, such as income, educational attainment, and wealth. I also show that there are also large racial disparities in mobility for each of these outcomes. Next, I document some of the patterns of income mobility gaps in more detail, by showing the history of the gap, how the gaps vary by sex, and making comparisons with racial groups other than blacks and whites. Following that, I explain why differences in income mobility are pivotal to explaining persistent income gaps between blacks and whites. I then consider a number of different factors that might explain black-white gaps in income mobility. Finally, I end by considering what I take to be important implications of these findings.