Test-Score Performance and Rates
of Mobility by Socioeconomic and
Good description of important events is better than bad
explanation of anything.
—Gary King, Robert Keohane and Sidney Verba, Designing
Before considering the impact of the mobility/social capital dynamic on student achievement and group-level educational inequality, it is important to more fully examine the twelfth grade test score gap, while paying special attention to the incidence and causes of student mobility. NAEP data clearly highlight the magnitude of the test score gap and suggest its persistence over time, but the NELS:88 data also reveal a test-score disparity between Mexican Americans and nonLatino Whites that remains intact even when the comparison groups are considered according to their socioeconomic and nativity status. Descriptive findings based on the NELS:88 survey data underscore the many disadvantages precluding Mexican origin youth from meeting their full academic potential. My particular focus here, however, is on student transience, since even the most stable generation of Mexican American students changes schools at significantly higher rates than the most mobile generation of Whites. Through the juxtaposition of both survey and field data, I explore the incidence and causes of student mobility in great detail over the course of the present chapter.
Analyses of the NELS:88 data show that Mexican Americans face significant disadvantages in access to resources, and indeed socioeconomic status (SES) levels lend support to this observation, since the average SES among Mexican Americans in the NELS:88 sample is more than a standard deviation below mean-level SES among