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An Update on the Secular Narrowing of the Black-White Gap in the Wordsum Vocabulary Test (1974-2012)

Meng Hu


The aim of this article is to demonstrate the importance of using multilevel regression when analyzing cohort data. To show this, I analyze the Black-White difference in Wordsum scores by cohorts and by survey years, using the General Social Survey (GSS). Replicating Huang & Hauser’s (2001) findings, I find a substantial narrowing of the difference across cohorts (but not across survey years) when using tobit regression models. However, when using the more appropriate multilevel regression model which disentangles cohort from age effects, I find no such narrowing. It is safe to conclude there is no gap narrowing with respect to vocabulary scores and that Huang & Hauser’s (2001) findings were the result of statistical artifacts.

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