Family’s Subjective Economic Status and Children’s Matrix Reasoning: Blacks’ Diminished Returns

Shervin Assari, Shanika Boyce


Background: Due to a pattern known as Marginalization-related Diminished Returns (MDRs), historically oppressed non-Hispanic Black Americans show weaker effects of economic status on health and development, when compared to socially privileged non-Hispanic White Americans. Such MDRs are also documented for the effects of economic status on the school performance of non-Hispanic Black children. However, the existing knowledge is minimal on similar diminished returns on children’s intelligence. Aim: To compare racial and ethnic groups for the effect of subjective economic status on children’s cognitive performance, we compared non-Hispanic White and non-Hispanic Black children for the effects of subjective economic status on children’s matrix reasoning. Methods: This cross-sectional study included 7898 children from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study. The predictor variable was subjective economic status, which was treated as a continuous measure. The primary outcome was children’s matrix reasoning, a domain of cognitive performance, measured by the Wechsler Intelligence Scales for Children-IV (WISC-V) matrix reasoning total score. Results: Overall, high subjective economic status was associated with higher matrix reasoning score. Race showed a statistically significant interaction with subjective economic status on children’s matrix reasoning score. This interaction suggested that high subjective economic status has a smaller boosting effect on increasing matrix reasoning score for non-Hispanic Black children relative to non-Hispanic White children. Conclusion: The degree by which subjective economic status correlates with matrix reasoning score, an important domain of cognitive performance, depends on race and racialization. Non-Hispanic Black children may show weaker gains in matrix reasoning from their subjective economic status than their non-Hispanic White counterparts. To minimize the racial gap in cognitive performance, we need to address diminished returns that occur as a result of the racialization of racial and ethnic minority children. Not only should we equalize economic status, but also increase the marginal returns of economic status for racial minorities, particularly non-Hispanic Black families. Such efforts require public policies that go beyond access and also consider how we can empower non-Hispanic Black communities and families so they can more effectively leverage and utilize their economic resources to secure measurable and tangible outcomes. Structural and societal barriers such as residential and school segregation may hinder non-Hispanic Black children from receiving the full effects of their family-level economic status on a variety of outcomes, including their cognitive performance.

Full Text:




  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2020 Shervin Assari, Shanika Boyce

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Copyright © SCHOLINK INC.  ISSN 2470-6205 (Print)  ISSN 2470-6213 (Online)