Only African-American College Graduates Break the Traditional 2-to-1 Black-White Unemployment Gap

In 2006 blacks with only a high school diploma were nearly three times as likely to be unemployed as blacks with a four-year college degree. Blacks who have dropped out of high school are 4.6 times as likely to be unemployed as blacks with a bachelor’s degree.

Although blacks with a college degree are significantly less likely to be unemployed than their African-American peers with lower levels of education, this result says nothing about the state of the racial unemployment gap between blacks and whites. For the past half century the black unemployment rate has hovered at a level that is about twice the rate for whites. In good economic times and bad, there has been little fluctuation in this historical 2-to-1 ratio.

But in recent years there are indications that for one category of black workers, the 2-to-1 black-white unemployment ratio is not set in stone. In 2006, 2.8 percent of blacks with a college degree were unemployed. This was 1.4 times the rate for whites with a college degree. Blacks with only some college, but no degree, were still nearly twice as likely to be unemployed as whites. For high school graduates with no college experience, the racial unemployment rate for blacks was 2.2 times the rate for whites.