Among Young Blacks and Whites, Huge Racial Disparities Persist in College Completions

Today in the United States, 18.5 percent of all African-American adults over the age of 25 have earned a four-year college degree. For white adults over the age of 25, the figure is about 31 percent.

But data from the Census Bureau and the Department of Education on educational attainment of African Americans is somewhat misleading. Included in the data on the educational attainment of African-American adults are millions of blacks who grew up prior to the civil rights era when higher educational opportunities for African Americans were almost nonexistent.

For blacks in the 25- to 29-year-old age group, 18.6 percent hold a four-year college degree. This is only slightly better than the rate for black adults as a whole. For whites in this age group, 34.3 percent hold a four-year college degree. This is 3.4 percentage points higher than the white adult population as a whole. Therefore, the college-completion rate gap between young blacks and young whites is actually larger than for the population as a whole.

These figures are discouraging and portend continuing economic gaps between the races for the foreseeable future. If the educational gap between young blacks and whites is larger than the educational gap for black and white adults as a whole, it is near certain that racial gaps in income, wealth, poverty, and unemployment will persist for generations to come.