Working paper

When does inequality grow? A seasonal analysis of racial/ethnic disparities in learning in kindergarten through eighth grade


By: Megan Kuhfeld, Dennis Condron, Douglas Downey


What role does schooling play in the development of racial/ethnic inequalities in academic skills? Seasonal learning studies, which allow researchers to compare the growth of achievement gaps when school is in versus out of session, provide important evidence on whether schools reproduce or exacerbate educational inequalities. However, most existing seasonal studies have been restricted to the early grades, limiting our understanding of the relationship between schooling and inequality in the later grades. In this study, we examine seasonal patterns of racial/ethnic achievement gaps in kindergarten through eighth grade using a national sample of over two million students. We find that the Black-White achievement gaps widen during school years and shrink during summers, whereas Asian students generally pull ahead of Whites at a faster rate during summers than during school years. We conclude by discussing the implications of our findings in relation to the broader literature on schools and educational inequalities

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