The Future of Children: Spring 2005

School Readiness: Closing Racial and Ethnic Gaps

Cecilia Elena Rouse, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Sara S. McLanahan
Release Date: February 10, 2005

A Brookings Institution Press and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University publication The Future of Children is a new semiannual publication that provies research and...

The Future of Children is a new semiannual publication that provies research and analysis to promote effective policies and programs for children. This first issue focuses on “School Readiness: Closing Racial and Ethnic Gaps.”

For more than 30 years, researchers have seen white children outperform black and other minority children in tests of reading and math skills. Though there is evidence that the gap has narrowed somewhat, the very persistence of this “racial and ethnic gap” remains a source considerable concern for academics, policy professionals and parents. The ethnic and racial gaps appear to reach back to the preschool years. When children reach the school door, minority children exhibit lower school readiness skills, at least those measured by standardized tests, than their white counterparts. From that point forward, the achievement gap only widens.

If policy professionals are to address this disparity in academic achievement (and the consequent disparity in later opportunity), the racial and ethnic gap must be examined in the very earliest years, before students begin school with embedded inequalities. This volume critically summarizes the research on the origin and trajectory of the racial and ethnic gap in the early years from several theoretical perspectives. In particular, research is analyzed to determine when these differences start to emerge, in what areas they appear, what factors contribute to their development by the time children enter grade school and what are the long term effects.


Introducing the Issue of Test Score Ethnic and Racial Disparities, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Sara McLanahan, and Cecilia Elena Rouse Identifying Racial and Ethnic Differences in School Readiness, Donald Rock and Jack Stenner Test Score Gaps: The Contribution of Family and Neighborhood Characteristics, Greg Duncan and Katherine Magnuson Genetic Differences and School Readiness, William T. Dickens Neuroscience Perspectives on Disparities in School Readiness, Kim Noble, B. J. Casey, and Nim Tottenham Low Birth Weight and School Readiness, Nancy Reichman The Impact of Health on School Readiness, Janet Currie Parenting, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn and Lisa Markman Childcare and Early Education, Katherine Magnuson and Jane Waldfogel


Cecilia Rouse is director of the Education Research Section and professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University. Jeanne Brooks-Gunn is Virginia and Leonard Marx Professor of Child Development and Education at Teachers College and College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University. Sara McLanahan is professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton University, where she is also director of the Center for Research on Child Wellbeing. She is coauthor of Growing Up with a Single Parent (Harvard, 1994).