Black-White SAT Score Gap Is Higher in More Segregated Cities

Housing segregation is often cited as a root cause for educational achievement disparities between white and black students. A study by David Card and Jesse Rothstein, “Racial Segregation and the Black-White Test Score Gap,” attempts to quantify the impacts of neighborhood segregation on SAT scores. Their conclusion is that the impact is significant.

The SAT is a standardized test used for college admissions across the country. Using large microdata samples across different metropolitan areas for 1998-2001 test cohorts, the authors find strong evidence that the black-white SAT score gap is significantly elevated in more segregated cities. After controlling for family background and a variety of other factors, the authors find that shifting from a completely segregated city to a completely integrated city would close about one-quarter of the black-white SAT score gap.

“The racial gap in student achievement is a pervasive and divisive feature of American life,” the study’s authors write. “There is a robust and quantitatively important relationship between Black relative test scores and the degree of segregation in different metropolitan areas. Our estimates suggest that the move from a highly segregated city to an integrated city is associated with a 45-point narrowing of the Black-White SAT gap – about one-quarter of the raw differential. We consistently find that neighborhood segregation exerts a strong negative effect on relative test scores.”

The study provides compelling and quantifiable evidence that educational advocates must also be housing advocates. The Opportunity Starts at Home multi-sector affordable homes campaign provides a platform for organizations from the education sector to join the housing movement along with many other multi-sector partners. Read more about the connections between housing and education here.