Low-Income Female Students and the Reversal of the Black-White Gap in High School Graduation

Brian Clark, Ying Shi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This article shows that the traditional narrative of Black-White high school graduation gaps is inverted among economically disadvantaged female students. Two nationally representative surveys and statewide administrative data demonstrate that low-income White females graduate at rates 5 to 6 percentage points lower than Black peers despite having higher test scores. Greater rates of tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drug use among White females account for one third of the attainment disparity. Since the early onset of substance use among low-income White females predicts lower attainment, more research on the factors leading to risky behaviors and their correlates during early adolescence is warranted. Examining racial gaps in high school graduation at the intersection of gender and income categories can inform more tailored interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAERA Open
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020


  • educational attainment
  • inequality
  • racial gap
  • risky behaviors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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