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Featured Abstract: Does Wealth Affect the Achievement Gap?

April 2, 2008 - 8:13am

From " Black-White Achievement Gap and Family Wealth" by W. Jean Yeung and Dalton Conley, Child Development 79:2, pp 302-324:

This article examines the extent to which family wealth affects the Black–White test score gap for young children based on data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (aged 3–12). This study found little evidence that wealth mediated the Black–White test scores gaps, which were eliminated when child and family demographic covariates were held constant. However, family wealth had a stronger association with cognitive achievement of school-aged children than that of preschoolers and a stronger association with school-aged children’s math than on their reading scores. Liquid assets, particularly holdings in stocks or mutual funds, were positively associated with school-aged children’s test scores. Family wealth was associated with a higher quality home environment, better parenting behavior, and children’s private school attendance.

We tend to focus on achievement gaps for student for low-income families, but family assets also play a significant role in shaping the quality of families' living situations, or their ability to pay for educational opportunities and resources that affect student achievement--such as supplemental lessons, summer vacations, and, in the majority of states that don't have universal pre-k, access to high-quality early learning programs. The New America Foundation's Asset Building Program works to promote policies that help families of modest means build their asset base. What other local, state, and federal policies might help address educational inequities that are related to family assets rather than income?