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Race, Poverty and SAT Scores: Modeling the Influences of Family Income on Black and White High School Students’ SAT Performance
Teachers College Record (2013)
  • Ezekiel J Dixon-Román, University of Pennsylvania
  • Howard T. Everson
  • John J McArdle, University of Southern California


Educational policy makers and test critics often assert that standardized test scores are strongly influenced by factors beyond individual differences in academic achievement such as family income and wealth. Unfortunately, few empirical studies consider the simultaneous and related influences of family income, parental education, and high school achievement on college admissions test scores.

Focus of Study:

This research was animated by the nagging question of the association of family income with SAT performance. For example, is the relationship between family income and SAT performance non-linear? Does the relationship differ markedly by race? More importantly, how strong are the effects of poverty on SAT performance?

Research Design:

This study is a secondary analysis of a large national sample of Black and White college bound high school students who took the SAT in 2003 (N = 781,437).

Data Collection and Analysis:

Employing data from the College Board’s Student Descriptive Questionnaire, this study used structural equation modeling (SEM) to estimate the effects of family income on SAT scores for Black and White examinees accounting for the simultaneous effects of parental education and high school achievement.


Results suggest the effects of family income on SAT scores, though relatively modest in contrasts to high school achievement, are substantial, non-linear, and nearly twice as large for Black students. Moreover, the unstandardized direct effect of high school achievement on SAT performance is not enough to address the substantial effects of poverty for Black students.


The findings are discussed with respect to social inequality and educational opportunity in college admissions.

Publication Date
Citation Information
Ezekiel J Dixon-Román, Howard T. Everson and John J McArdle. "Race, Poverty and SAT Scores: Modeling the Influences of Family Income on Black and White High School Students’ SAT Performance" Teachers College Record Vol. 115 Iss. 4 (2013)
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