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Determinants of Academic Attainment in the US: a Quantile regression analysis of test scores

Haile, Getinet and Nguyen, Ngoc Anh (2007): Determinants of Academic Attainment in the US: a Quantile regression analysis of test scores.

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Abstract

We investigate the determinants of high school students’ academic attainment in maths, reading and science; focusing particularly on possible effects that ethnicity and family background may have on attainment. Using data from the NELS2000 and employing quantile regression techniques, we find two important results. First, the gaps in maths, reading and science test scores among ethnic groups vary across the conditional quantiles of the measured test scores. Specifically, Blacks and Hispanics tend to fare worse in their attainment at higher quantiles, particularly in science. Secondly, the effects of family background factors such as parental education and father’s occupation also vary across quantiles of the test score distribution. The implication of these findings is that the commonly made broad distinction on whether one is from a privileged/disadvantaged ethnic and/or family background may not tell the whole story that the academic attainment discourse has to note. Interventions aimed at closing the gap in attainment between Whites and minorities may need to target higher levels of the test score distribution.

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