Thursday, June 18, 2009

Early Life Conditions and the Black-White Achievement Gap

A recent NBER working paper (Birth Cohort and the Black-White Achievement Gap: The Roles of Access and Health Soon After Birth, by Chay, Guryan & Mazmuder) argues that convergence in black-white achievement test scores (including the military’s AFQT) observed in the US in the 1980s had its origins in the improvements in early life conditions of black infants in the 1960s. Almond Chay and Greenstone (2008) have previously argued that the removal of segregation in Southern hospitals was a major factor in these health improvements.

In this paper the authors use regional and temporal variation in post neonatal mortality rates, and conclude that “investments in health through increased access at very early ages have large, long-term effects on achievement, and that the integration of hospitals in the 1960s affected the test performance of black teenagers in the 1980s”.


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