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Summer Setback: Race, Poverty, School Composition, and Mathematics Achievement in the First Two Years of School

Doris R. Entwisle and Karl L. Alexander
American Sociological Review
Vol. 57, No. 1 (Feb., 1992), pp. 72-84
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2096145
Page Count: 13
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Summer Setback: Race, Poverty, School Composition, and Mathematics Achievement in the First Two Years of School
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Abstract

In a longitudinal study of a random sample of Baltimore youngsters starting first grade, the mathematics achievement level of African-Americans and whites was almost identical. Two years later, African-American students had fallen behind by about half a standard deviation. We use mathematics test score changes over the summer when school is closed to estimate "home" influences, and we investigate three major hypotheses that might account for lower mathematics achievement among African-Americans. The most important source of variation in mathematics achievement is differences in family economic status, followed by school segregation. Two-parent (father-present) vs. one-parent (father-absent) family configurations are probably negligible as a cause when economic status is controlled. Poor children of both races consistently lose ground in the summer but do as well or better than better-off children in winter when school is in session. We discuss the theoretical and policy implications of these findings.

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