The Atlantic

The Simple Reform That Improved Black Students' Earnings

When states began to require more math courses, black high-school graduates began to see bigger paychecks.
Source: Patrick Semansky / AP

When states raise the number of math classes they require students to take in high school, black students complete more math coursework—and boost their earnings as a result. That’s the topline takeaway from new research by Joshua Goodman, an associate professor of public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

To understand the results, it’s helpful to have a little background. During the 1980s, a now-famous report called “A Nation at Risk” by Ronald Reagan’s National Commission on Excellence in Education opened this way:

Our Nation is at risk. Our once unchallenged preeminence in commerce, industry, science, and technological innovation is being overtaken by competitors throughout the world. This report is concerned with only one of the many causes and

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