Large Numbers of Blacks at Selective Colleges and Universities Are First- or Second-Generation Immigrants

In 2004 University Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. of Harvard University stated his belief that 75 percent of the black students at Harvard were either of African or Caribbean descent or biracial.

A new study published in the journal Sociology of Education lends support to Professor Gates’ view. The study finds that blacks who immigrated to this country and children of black immigrants are significantly more likely to enroll at highly selective colleges and universities than blacks who are descendants of African slaves.

The study found that these immigrant blacks are even more likely to enroll in elite colleges and universities than are native-born whites.

The data showed that 75 percent of first- or second-generation immigrant blacks enrolled in college after high school. For whites, the figure was 72 percent. For blacks whose families had been in this country for more than two generations, only 60 percent of high school graduates went on to college.

Slightly more than 9 percent of immigrant black high school graduates enrolled at the nation’s most selective colleges. Only 2.4 percent of native-born blacks and 7 percent of whites enrolled at these schools.

An important question raised by the statistics is whether immigrant blacks should benefit from the race-based affirmative action admissions programs at these selective colleges. A few years ago Harvard Law School professor Lani Guinier questioned whether “in the name of affirmative action we should be admitting people because they look like us and then they don’t identify with us.”