Demand-side Theories About the Origin of the Racial Achievement Gap

Family structure/parenting style
Children can differ in their readiness to learn before they enter school. Research has shown that parental involvement in a child's development has a significant effect on the educational achievement of minority children. According to sociologist Annette Lareau, differences in parenting styles can affect a child's future achievement. In her book Unequal Childhoods, she argues that there are two main types of parenting: concerted cultivation and the achievement of natural growth.

Concerted cultivation is usually practiced by middle-class parents, regardless of their race. These parents are more likely to be involved in their children's' education, encourage their children's participation in extracurricular activities or sports teams, and to teach their children how to successfully communicate with authority figures. These communication skills give children a form of social capital that help them communicate their needs and negotiate with adults throughout their life.

The achievement of natural growth is generally practiced by poor and working-class families. These parents generally do not play as large a role in their children's education, their children are less likely to participate in extracurriculars or sports teams, and they usually do not teach their children the communication skills that middle- and upper-class children have. Instead, these parents are more concerned that their children obey authority figures and have respect for authority, which are two characteristics that are important to have in order to succeed in working-class jobs.

The parenting practices that a child is raised with influences their future educational achievement. However, parenting styles are heavily influenced by the parents' and family's social, economic, and physical circumstances. In particular, immigration status (if applicable), education level, incomes, and occupations influence the degree of parental involvement their children's academic achievement. These factors directly determine the access of the parents to time and resources to dedicate to their children's development. These factors also indirectly determine the home environment and parents' educational expectations of their children. For example, children from poor families have lower academic performance in kindergarten than children from middle to upper-class backgrounds, but children from poor families who had cognitively stimulating materials in the home demonstrated higher rates of academic achievement in kindergarten. Additionally, parents of children living in poverty are less likely to have cognitively stimulating materials in the home for their children and are less likely to be involved in their child's school.

In the United States, most minority groups are more likely to live in poverty than White Americans. Unemployment rate and mortgages for African and Latin Americans are usually higher than White Americans'. And although Asian American families earn, on average, more income than White American families do, there are usually more family members working in the Asian American family than the White American family.T hese disparities in socioeconomic status between minority groups and White Americans help explain differences in parenting styles, family structure, and the resultant educational achievement of minority children. However, the racial gaps persists when comparing families with similar income. Whites from families with incomes below $10,000 had a mean SAT test score that was 61 points higher than blacks whose families had incomes of between $80,000 and $100,000.

African-American family structure
In 2011, 72% of Black babies were born to unwed mothers.

There is consensus in the literature about the negative consequences of growing up in single-parent homes on educational attainment and success. Children growing up in single-parent homes are more likely to not finish school and generally obtain less years of schooling than those in two-parent homes. Specifically, boys growing in homes with only their mothers are more likely to receive poorer grades and display behavioral problems.

For black high school students, the African American family structure does affect their educational goals and expectations also. Studies on the topic have indicated that children growing up in single-parent homes faces disturbances in young childhood, adolescence and young adulthood as well. Although these effects are sometimes minimal and contradictory, it is generally agreed that the family structure a child grows up in is important for their success in the educational sphere.

Cultural differences
Some experts believe that cultural factors contribute to the racial achievement gap. Students from minority cultures face language barriers, differences in cultural norms in interactions, learning styles, varying levels of receptiveness of their culture to White American culture, and varying levels of acceptance of the White American culture by the students. In particular, it has been found that minority students from cultures with views that generally do not align with the mainstream cultural views have a harder time in school. Furthermore, views of the value of education differ by minority groups as well as members within each group. Both Hispanic and African-American youths often receive mixed messages about the importance of education, and often end up performing below their academic potential.

Latino American
Many Hispanic parents who immigrate to The United States see a high school diploma as being a sufficient amount of schooling and may not stress the importance of continuing on to college. Parental discouragement from pursuing higher education tends to be based on the notion of "we made it without formal schooling, so you can too". Additionally, depending on the immigration generation and economic status of the student, some students prioritize their obligations to assisting their family over their educational aspirations. Poor economic circumstances place greater pressure on the students to sacrifice time spent working towards educational attainment in order to dedicate more time to help support the family. Surveys have shown that while Latino American families would like their children to have a formal education, they also place high value on getting jobs, marrying, and having children as early as possible, all of which conflict with the goal of educational achievement. However, counselors and teachers usually promote continuing on to college. This message conflicts with the one being sent to Hispanic students by their families and can negatively affect the motivation of Hispanic students, as evidenced by the fact that Latinos have the lowest college attendance rates of any racial/ethnic group. Overall, Latino American students face barriers such as financial stability and insufficient support for higher education within their families. Reading to children when they are younger increases literacy comprehension, which is a fundamental concept in the education system; however, it is less likely to occur within Latino American families because many parents do not have any formal education. Currently, Latino Americans over the age of 25 have the lowest percentage in obtaining a bachelor's degree or higher amongst all other racial groups; while only having 11 percent.

African American
African American students are also likely to receive different messages about the importance of education from their peer group and from their parents. Many young African-Americans are told by their parents to concentrate on school and do well academically, which is similar to the message that many middle-class white students receive. However, the peers of African-American students are more likely to place less emphasis on education, sometimes accusing studious African-American students of "acting white." This causes problems for black students who want to pursue higher levels of education, forcing some to hide their study or homework habits from their peers and perform below their academic potential.

Asian American
Asian American students are more likely to view education as a means to social mobility, as they believe it provides a means to overcome language barriers as well as discrimination. This notion comes from parental expectations of their children, which are rooted in the cultural belief that hard work is the key to educational and eventually occupational attainment. Many Asian Americans immigrated to the United States voluntarily, in search for better opportunities. This immigration status comes into play when assessing the cultural views of Asian Americans since attitudes of more recent immigration are associated with optimistic views about the correlation between hard work and success. Obstacles such as language barriers and acceptance of White American culture are more easily overcome by voluntary immigrants since their expectations of attaining better opportunities in the United States influence their interactions and experiences.