HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.

Professor of Public Policy, HKS; Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government, FAS


Rising inequality in the United States has raised concerns about potentially widening gaps in educational achievement by socioeconomic status (SES). Using assessments from LTT-NAEP, Main-NAEP, TIMSS, and PISA that are psychometrically linked over time, we trace trends in SES gaps in achievement for U.S. student cohorts born between 1961 and 2001. Gaps in math, reading, and science achievement between the top and bottom quartiles of the SES distribution have closed by 0.05 standard deviation per decade over this period. The findings are consistent across alternative measures of SES and subsets of available tests and hold in more recent periods. At the current pace of closure, the achievement gap would not be eliminated until the second half of the 22nd century.


Hanusehk, Eric A., Jacob D. Light, Paul E. Peterson, Laura M. Talpey, and Ludger Woessmann. "Long-run Trends in the U.S. SES—Achievement Gap." Education Finance and Policy 17.4 (Fall 2022): 608-640.