Discussion Post – Gaps In IQ Scores

Discussion post – one to two paragraphs

Given the importance of the intelligence quotient (IQ) in modern society, significant gaps continue to be measured based on social and cultural differences. In your initial post, utilize the module resources and your own research to explain the reason for these gaps in IQ scores. Clearly state if you think any of the existing hypotheses are sufficient in explaining this gap.

Social Equity Theory and Racial-Ethnic Achievement Gaps

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Clark McKown Rush University Medical Center

In the United States, racial-ethnic differences on tests of school readiness and academic achievement continue. A complete understanding of the origins of racial-ethnic achievement gaps is still lacking. This article describes social equity theory (SET), which proposes that racial-ethnic achievement gaps originate from two kinds of social process, direct and signal influences, that these two kinds of processes operate across develop- mental contexts, and that the kind of influence and the setting in which they are enacted change with age. Evidence supporting each of SET’s key propositions is discussed in the context of a critical review of research on the Black–White achievement gap. Specific developmental hypotheses derived from SET are described, along with proposed standards of evidence for testing those hypotheses.

This article offers an account of the varied social processes that contribute to mean differences in test scores between children from different racial-ethnic groups, spanning preschool to high school (Jencks & Phillips, 1998; Lee, 2002; Lee & Burkam, 2002). In the United States, on measures of school readiness and academic achievement, Asian Americans achieve higher average scores than White students, who in turn achieve higher average scores than their Black and Latino peers (Jencks & Phillips, 1998; Lee, 2002; Reardon & Galindo, 2009). Because it has received a great deal of attention, the Black– White achievement gap is used to illustrate the major points of this article. The broad goal of this article, however, is to propose a model that applies to a variety of racial-ethnic and other achievement gaps.

Racial-ethnic achievement gaps are substantial life-span phenomena. By all accounts, the magni- tude of the Black–White achievement gap is consid- erable, ranging from .5 to 1.0 SD, depending on the sample and the measure (Jencks & Phillips, 1998; Lee, 2002; Reardon & Galindo, 2009; Reardon & Robinson, 2007; Vanneman, Hamilton, Anderson, & Rahman, 2009). The Black–White achievement gap affects individuals and the generation to which they belong, beginning in early childhood and spanning

all educational levels (Farkas, 2003). In terms of school readiness, research has consistently demon- strated that prior to school entry, Black students achieve lower average scores than White students (Brooks-Gunn, Klebanov, & Duncan, 1996; Duncan, Brooks-Gunn, & Klebanov, 1994; Lee & Burkam, 2002). Over the course of elementary school, the Black–White achievement gap appears to grow (Farkas, 2003; Fryer & Levitt, 2004, 2005; Phillips, Crouse, & Ralph, 1998).

The Black–White achievement gap is a highly consequential social problem. School readiness and academic achievement are associated with the kinds of jobs and wages people are able to secure. Racial- ethnic achievement gaps that begin at school entry and persist through school completion thus can influence racial-ethnic gaps in socioeconomic status (SES) across the life span (e.g., Levin, 2009; Reardon & Robinson, 2007). In turn, SES is robustly associ- ated with health (Adler, Boyce, Chesney, & Cohen, 1994; Levin, 2009). Furthermore, the health of any democratic society is predicated on the ability of its population to make informed choices at the ballot box. When large segments of the population are inadequately educated, democracy’s health is at risk.

As with any social problem, how policy makers, practitioners, and the public formulate the Black– White achievement gap’s cause will guide what is done, and what is not done, to solve the problem (Humphreys & Rappaport, 1993; McKown, 2005;

This study was made possible by a William T. Grant Founda- tion Scholar’s Award to Clark McKown. Thanks to Laura Gum- biner, Anne Gregory, Stephen Quintana, Michael Strambler, and Rhona Weinstein for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this article.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Clark McKown, Rush NeuroBehavioral Center, 4711 Golf Road, Suite 1100, Skokie, IL 60076. Electronic mail may be sent to Clark_A_McKown@rush.edu.

© 2012 The Author Child Development © 2012 Society for Research in Child Development, Inc. All rights reserved. 0009-3920/2013/8404-0002 DOI: 10.1111/cdev.12033

Child Development, July/August 2013, Volume 84, Number 4, Pages 1120–1136

 

 

Seidman, 1983). Almost all accounts of racial-ethnic achievement gaps acknowledge the influence of multiple processes in multiple settings (e.g., Boykin, 1986; Garcia-Coll, 1990; Weinstein, 2002; Weinstein & McKown, 1998). Nevertheless, much prior work on the Black–White achievement gap has focused on specific processes operating in a limited range of contexts. For example, some have argued that racial differences in genetic endowment cause the gap (Jensen, 1969; Rushton & Jensen, 2005). Others have focused on the contribution of SES and family fac- tors (Brooks-Gunn, Klebanov, Smith, Duncan, & Lee, 2003), cultural values (Ogbu, 2002; Thernstrom & Thernstrom, 2002), academic stereotypes (Steele & Aronson, 1995), and degree of match between home and school environments (Brice-Heath, 1983; Tharp, 1989).

More focused accounts are sometimes criticized because they do not account for the entire racial- ethnic achievement gap, even though they are often interpreted as doing so. For example, in a critical review, Sackett, Hardison, and Cullen (2004) acknowledged that one social process—stereotype threat—can depress Black students’ test scores. However, they strongly questioned common inter- pretations of the research that stereotype threat is the sole cause of the Black–White test score gap, and that if it were eliminated, the gap would there- fore disappear.

That theory and research have developed in a targeted way is understandable—evaluating multi- factorial accounts of the gap’s origin is challenging. The conceptual challenge is to broaden inquiry without mounting atheoretical “fishing expeditions” that provide few insights. The practical challenge is to muster resources to meaningfully evaluate the combined influences of multiple social processes across key developmental contexts. What is needed is a theory broad and flexible enough to account for varied sources of social influence, yet specific enough to provide a parsimonious account of the achievement gap.

The purpose of this article is to describe social equity theory (SET), a novel account of social pro- cesses that together give rise to racial-ethnic achievement gaps. SET provides a heuristic for organizing and integrating research on racial-ethnic achievement gaps. SET is proposed as a theory because: (a) it makes specific commitments about the social processes that are relevant to understand- ing the achievement gap, (b) it offers a causal explanatory framework to explain the racial-ethnic achievement gap, and (c) it generates specific, falsi- fiable hypotheses.

SET Defined

SET describes social processes that contribute to racial-ethnic achievement gaps. SET explains mean differences in achievement by members of different racial-ethnic groups. There is, of course, consider- able within-group variability in academic readiness and achievement. Within-group and between-group differences in academic readiness and achievement are distinct. SET does not address the causes of individual variability in achievement. Rather, it explains factors that together create between-group differences in school readiness and achievement.

In the context of SET, the term social processes refers to transactions between individuals, including verbal and nonverbal communication directed from one person to another. The term social processes also refers to communications between individuals and social settings, in which an event or characteristic of the setting—apart from interpersonal interactions— communicates something of social consequence. For example, a poster depicting a civil rights event on a classroom wall may communicate something of social consequence without involving an interper- sonal communicative transaction.

SET adopts an ecological perspective (Bronfen- brenner, 1977; Kelly, 1987; Spencer, 1999; Weinstein, 2002) to formulate what social processes in what contexts create and maintain racial-ethnic achieve- ment gaps. SET includes four propositions about the origins of racial-ethnic achievement gaps:

1. Two classes of social process influence racial- ethnic achievement gaps. Direct influences are social processes that support achievement. Direct influences contribute to the racial-ethnic achievement gap when they are distributed dif- ferently to people from different racial-ethnic groups. Signal influences are cues that commu- nicate negative expectations about a child’s racial-ethnic group. When children from nega- tively stereotyped groups detect such cues, this can erode achievement.

2. Signal influences depend on children’s ability to detect cues signaling a stereotyped expecta- tion, and this ability increases significantly dur- ing the elementary grades.

3. Social processes affecting the achievement gap operate across a limited range of key develop- mental settings, and the relevant settings change lawfully with age.

4. Together, relevant direct and signal influences across developmental contexts account for the achievement gap.

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From these propositions, it is possible to develop specific and falsifiable developmental hypotheses about the origins of racial-ethnic achievement gaps. What follows is a review of evidence supporting the existence of direct and signal influences on the achievement gap, their combined influence, and the contexts in which they influence racial-ethnic achievement gaps. The review focuses on research into the Black–White achievement gap. A sub- sequent section articulates specific hypotheses uniquely derived from SET. The article finishes with proposed standards of evidence to guide future work on SET and its component parts.

Evidence in Support of SET Propositions

Direct Influence on the Achievement Gap

Direct influences, defined. Direct influences are social processes that promote academic achieve- ment similarly for all children in all racial-ethnic groups. SET proposes that direct influences contrib- ute to racial-ethnic achievement gaps when they are systematically and unequally distributed to mem- bers of different racial-ethnic groups. Direct influ- ences on racial-ethnic achievement gaps may unfold at home, in school, with peers, and in neighbor- hoods.

Home. In the home, particularly for young chil- dren, parent–child interactions and the relationships within which they take place are important contexts for children’s development. A substantial body of research suggests that the characteristics and qual- ity of parent–child interactions influences preaca- demic and academic outcomes. For example, Baumrind (1966; see also Baumrind & Black, 1967), focusing largely on White middle-class samples, examined the relation between parenting styles and a variety of life outcomes among children. They examined two dimensions of parenting style: sup- portiveness and demandingness. Supportiveness referred to the level of expressed parental love, nur- turance, and responsiveness. Demandingness referred to the clarity of rules and the firmness and fairness of parental discipline practices. They found that when parents provided a combination of high support and high demand—what they called “authoritative” parenting—children had better aver- age academic, social, and emotional outcomes.

There is some evidence that what normative par- enting is varies from one racial-ethnic group to the next. Mandara and Murray (2002) found that Baumrind’s (1966) parenting styles typology charac- terized Black parenting, but that Black authoritative

parenting included greater demand and less com- promise than White authoritative parenting. In addition, the relation between parenting and aca- demic outcomes can differ for different groups. For example, at least two independent research groups have found that among Black children, the higher the overall neighborhood distress, the more strict parenting is associated with positive academic out- comes (Baldwin, Baldwin, & Cole, 1990; Gonzales, Cauce, Friedman, & Mason, 1996).

Prior research thus suggests that the same par- enting practices do not always promote the same academic outcomes for children from different racial-ethnic groups, leaving open the question of whether parenting is a direct influence. The litera- ture cited above suggests that what is optimal par- enting for the development of academic outcomes may be different for children from different racial- ethnic groups and in different contexts. However, the same research suggests that for children from all racial-ethnic groups, achievement-supporting parenting—in whatever form that takes for the child’s racial-ethnic group and context—plays a key role in the development of children’s preacademic and academic skills.

For optimal parenting practices to exert a direct influence on the Black–White achievement gap, it must be present at different average levels in Black and White homes. In an important review article, Brooks-Gunn and Markman (2005) reported that there are racial-ethnic differences in parenting prac- tices. They reported that, compared to White par- ents, Black parents on average engaged less frequent warm and sensitive parenting and more frequent negative and intrusive parenting. It is important to note that effect sizes were small, indi- cating a high degree of overlap in the distributions of parenting behavior. In addition, they reported differences in the frequency and richness of lan- guage exposure and availability of books and other stimulating materials, with Black parents on aver- age engaging in less frequent conversation and having fewer books and other media available.

Parenting is thus associated with preacademic and academic skill development, and optimal parenting is, on average, more available to White children than to Black children. That does not mean that these factors necessarily explain the Black– White achievement gap. It is possible, for example, that parenting and achievement gaps both arise from a third variable, such as Black–White socioeco- nomic differences. If this were true, in empirical models with SES and parenting as independent variables and academic score as the dependent vari-

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able, SES, but not parenting, would be associated with academic outcomes. Existing evidence runs contrary to this conclusion. Examining the ECLS–K data, when Lee and Burkam (2002) controlled for SES, the magnitude of the racial-ethnic school readi- ness gap was reduced, but not eliminated. Simi- larly, in secondary analyses of several large data sets, Magnuson and Duncan (2006) found that SES accounts for some, but not all, of the Black–White test score gap among young children. Furthermore, in middle childhood and adolescence, accounting for SES reduces, but does not eliminate the Black– White test score gap (Phillips, Brooks-Gunn, Duncan, Klebanov, & Crane, 1998).

When SES and racial-ethnic differences in parent- ing practices are accounted for, the size of the school readiness gap is dramatically reduced. For example, two studies found that among preschool- ers, maternal warmth and engagement account for much of the Black–White gap that remained when SES was accounted for (Brooks-Gunn et al., 1996, 2003). Another study found that when controlling for SES, all the residual early childhood Black– White reading readiness gap and much of the resid- ual math readiness gap was accounted for by family factors such as the frequency of reading (Lee & Burkam, 2002).

Parenting also helps explain the Black–White achievement gap in older children. For example, Mandara, Varner, Greene, and Richman (2009) examined the relation between parenting practices and the Black–White adolescent achievement gap. They examined multiple parenting practices, such as involving adolescents in decision making, paren- tal monitoring, number of household chores, school orientation, and maternal warmth. They reported that: (a) White parents generally engage in more achievement-promoting practices than Black par- ents, (b) this difference is largely accounted for by racial-ethnic differences in SES, and (c) accounting for multiple parenting practices that promote achievem