University Scientists Link Black Children’s Exposure to Lead Paint as a Contributing Factor in the Racial Test Score Gap

A study by researchers at Duke University and North Carolina Central University finds that early exposure to lead has a direct correlation with lower scores on standardized tests given to fourth-grade children in North Carolina. The study, published in the journal NeuroToxicology, found that lead exposure accounts for as much as 16 percent of test score differences.

Because black children are more likely than their white peers to be exposed to lead-based paint in older housing, the findings appear to explain some of the racial gap in standardized test scores. While further research would be required, lead exposure may also be a factor in lower scores for blacks on standardized tests for admission to college and graduate school.