Study Examines the Longstanding Economic and Educational Benefits of a College Education for Blacks and Other Minorities

In their new book Passing the Torch: Does Higher Education for the Disadvantaged Pay Off Across The Generations? authors Paul Attewell and David E. Lavin, both professors of sociology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, conclude that increased college enrollments of blacks and other minorities have had a tremendous beneficial effect in the minority community and for society as a whole.

Using data that tracked students for 20 or 30 years after they first entered higher education, the authors found that as many as 70 percent of the students eventually graduated from college, a rate far higher than most traditional measures of college completion have indicated.

Passing the Torch also shows that African-American college graduates receive longstanding economic benefits from their college education. Over time, college degrees hold their value for disadvantaged students.

Another important finding in this study is that students who entered college a generation ago tend to pass along an expectation of higher education to their children. College-educated parents are more likely to have stable families; they tend to read to their children more often, to be more involved in their children’s schools, to make a greater effort to enrich the cultural activities of their children, and to be more involved with the community. All of these factors add to the educational upbringing of their children, making it more likely that the children will someday go to college.