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The (Un)Level Playing Field: How Color-Blind Educational Tracking Leads to Unequal Access

Thomas Triebs (), John Morgan and Justin Tumlinson

VfS Annual Conference 2015 (Muenster): Economic Development - Theory and Policy from Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association

Abstract: Educational tracking seeks to group students by unobserved ability using measures of observable acquired skills. In a model where individuals have differential skills prior to beginning formal education due to differences in early childhood development (e.g. linguistic, cultural, or nutritional disadvantages), we show that color-blind tracking systematically underplaces minorities. As a result, minorities have, in expectation, higher abilities than non-minorities assigned to the same track regardless of track. A counterintuitive empirical implication of the model is that, conditional on tracking score and track, minorities will outperform non-minorities in subsequent testing following tracking. Affirmative action policies seeking to equalize posttracking outcomes share similar flaws to color-blind standards in that the average ability of minorities assigned to the upper track remains higher than for non-minorities.

JEL-codes: I24 I26 J18 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2015
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-edu
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