Document Type


Date of Degree


Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Mary Noonan


Racial inequality in educational and occupational attainment has been shown to be related to racial inequality in test scores and cognitive skills. Most research and policy attention has been given to the ability of schools to equalize test scores. I argue that a major reason why researchers have been unable to explain why schools have not closed the gap is because by the time children begin school it may be too late. Cognitive skills develop from infancy and as such, it should be unsurprising that by the time children are five years old the differences across groups are firmly established. Thus, this research attempts to uncover where the racial test-score gap begins by examining infants.

I perform a series of analyses using ordinary least squares regression (OLS) and structural equation modeling (SEM) using the first wave of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey--Birth cohort (ECLS-B). I utilize the mother's race, rather than the child's race, in the analyses because looking at the mother's race makes the most logical sense since the mother's race is more likely than the child's to determine household income, marital status, mother's education, parenting styles, and so on.

I demonstrate that there is little to no raw gap in cognitive skills between the infants of White and Black mothers in the United States. However, through SEM I find that when one controls for social, human, and financial capital, and for differences in health and type of childcare, the infants of African American mothers would actually do better than the infants of White mothers because of their precocious motor development. I find no support for genetics and childcare and only limited support for financial and human capital as mediators of the gap. However, there is support for family social capital and low birth weight as key mediators of the small Black-White test score gap in infancy.


Black-White test score gap, ECLS-B, racial inequality, infants, Cognitive Skills, Social Capital


xii, 182 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 170-182).


Copyright 2006 Phyllis Love Farley Rippeyoung

Included in

Sociology Commons