Background: Minorities' Diminished Returns (MDRs) refer to systemically weaker effects of socioeconomic status (SES) indicators on various developmental, behavioral, and health outcomes of ethnic minorities compared to non-Hispanic (non-Latino) Whites. Similar MDRs also exist for the effects of parental education on the school performance of ethnic minority youth.
Aim: To assess whether regression toward the mean (RTM) has any role in explaining the diminished effects of parental education on the school performance of Black and Hispanic youth relative to non-Hispanic White youth.
Materials and methods: Data for this cross-sectional study came from the Monitoring the Future survey (MTF, 2017), a nationally representative survey of American youth in 12th grade. The sample included 10,262 youth who were 12th graders (typically 17-18 years old). The independent variable was parental education with five categories: Some high school, High school graduate, Some college, College graduate, and Graduate school. The outcome was self-reported school performance measured as grade point average (GPA). Ethnicity was the effect modifier. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) and the Tukey Post Hoc test was used to analyze the data. Data visualization (line graphs) was used to visualize the shape of youth GPA as a function of parental education levels across ethnic groups.
Results: While a perfect stepwise increase was seen in youth school performance as a result of parental education improvement, this pattern differed considerably across ethnic groups. Such a perfect stepwise increase in youth school performance as a result of the incremental increase in parental education was missing for Black and Hispanic youth. The shape of the association between parental education and youth school performance ruled out regression toward the mean (RTM) as an explanation for the observed diminished effects of parental education on the school performance of Black and Hispanic youth.
Conclusion: Diminished returns of parental education on the school performance of Black and Hispanic youth cannot be explained by regression toward the mean. Other factors and contextual processes, such as segregation, discrimination, racism, and poor quality of schools in urban areas, should be investigated in future research.
Keywords: African Americans; Blacks; educational attainment; ethnicity; race; regression toward the mean; school performance; socioeconomic status.