Study Finds That Graduates of Black Colleges Have Seen a Relative Decline in Average Wages Since the 1970s

In a paper prepared for the National Bureau of Economic Research, Roland G. Fryer, an assistant professor of economics at Harvard University who is black, and Michael Greenstone, a professor of economics at MIT, report some bad news for the nation’s historically black colleges and universities.

The economists’ research found that between the 1970s and 1990s there was a 20 percent decline in relative wages for graduates of black colleges compared to black graduates of predominantly white colleges and universities. The authors note that during this period when relative wages declined, the academic preparedness of students at the black colleges and universities — measured by standardized test scores and high school grade point averages — actually increased.

The authors say that the data on declining earnings do not necessarily reflect poorly on the black colleges. Rather, they state the differences could be the result of “improvements in traditionally white institutions’ effectiveness at educating blacks.”

The study also found that there were significant declines between the 1970s and 1990s in the percentage of students at black colleges who said they would choose the same college again. There were also declines in the percentages of students at black colleges who believed that they were being well prepared for working in a diverse society after graduation.