Testing for Racial Differences in the Mental Ability of Young Children

2013

RESEARCH QUESTION

If genetic differences across races are responsible for the persistent and widening achievement gap, as some have argued, can racial differences in intelligence be observed at birth and through the early months of cognitive development?

ACTION

Prior to this research, studies of the cognitive abilities of young children had been small-scale and rare. Using a newly available and nationally representative data set, the Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey Birth Cohort (ECLS-B), which includes data for over 10,000 children born in 2001, we were able to analyze a test of mental function for children aged eight to twelve months, to assess whether an achievement gap was present during the early months of childhood development.

OUTCOMES

Read the full paper here.

Our research found only minor racial differences in test outcomes among infants aged 8 - 12 months, which disappear under a limited set of controls. While we cannot rule out the possibility of genetic influences, these data suggest that the achievement gap emerges not because of innate racial differences in intelligence, but because of differences in environment.

See also: Miscellaneous