Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Nature and Nurture of economic outcomes

What are driving this gap in test scores among races and minorities…?

There are so many variables that come into play to explaining this sustained gap in primary school test scores among students.  There are gaps in test scores in primary schools that are different from the ones in high school, and university score performances. The first part will focus on differences in primary and preschool test scores.

Several longitudinal surveys (following kids performance over several years), accompanied with details on the kid, the parents (biological and adoptive), quality of life, environmental conditions…, and the program of Chicago Public school system where students are allocated to the various public schools according to a lottery procedure (pretty much similar to the one when the military forced citizens to join the army during the Viet Nam war), shed strong light to the reasons behind the discrepancies in test scores.

Let us consider two sets of factors: set A and set B.  The first “set A” are variables representing or describing things that parents “are”:  for example, how parents evolved, grew-up, learned, experimented with life…before they got married and decided to have kids.  Set B are the variables that describe things that parents “do”: For example, what they did after the kid was born according to their model of “what is the best method or behavior to raising a child…”

The “Set A” factors are:

A1. Highly educated parents

A2. High socioeconomic status of parents

A3. First child is of mothers about 30 year-old

A.4 Parents speak English at home (for countries where English is the national language…)

A5. Child is adopted

A6. Parents are involved in PTA program (share in school activities and management…)

A7. House is stuffed with books

A8. Child has low birth-weight

Set B consists of the variables:

B1. Family is intact (no divorces, single family parent…)

B2. Parents recently moved into a better neighborhood…

B3. Mother didn’t work between giving birth and kindergarten (no economic unit productive…)

B4. Child attended Head Start program (for the deficient children…)

B5. Parents take the child to museum, zoo…

B6. Child is regularly spanked

B7. Child watches TV frequently

B8. Parents read to child almost every day, sort of “Goodnight Moon” stuff…

What the analyses of data by regression, comparing two variables in a subgroup that share the same characteristics but the two factors, showed that:

First, in primary test scores, the parenting processes of set B of factors had NO effect, one way or another in the performance of scores. It looks as if the “obsessed parents and parenting” do not matter in how the kid will perform in primary and preschool levels.

Second, the factors in set A can offer preliminary explanation for the gap.  For example, the trends are highly positively correlated, except for low birth-weight which is negatively correlated.

Third, apparently, at his early age, the kid is dominated by his genes advantages: Genes alone might be responsible for 50% of a child’s personality and abilities. It is after the early upbringing with sustained positive “nurturing” of parents that makes the big difference in high-school and university performance and future success.

That is what Bruce Sacerdote demonstrated in his paper “The Nature and Nurture of economic outcomes”. Sacerdote analyzed 3 adoption studies, two in the US and one in England, with detailed in-depth data on the adoptive kids, adoptive parents, and biological parents.

With sustained nurturing parenting, the IQ genetic advantage cede importance to behavioral maintenance… The next article will approach the question: “Why this gap…and what is meant by nurturing parents”

Note 1: Regression analysis is one particular statistical method for showing correlation in trends between two variables.  Analyses of huge data-bases, by manipulating data in several perspectives, can be very valuable in generating profitable ideas and hypotheses for further controlled experiments in order to research cause and effect relationship.

Note 2: Post was inspired from a chapter in “Freakonomics” by Steven Levitt




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