Examining the Racial Gap in Earnings for Bachelor’s Degree Holders: Wide Variations Across Major Disciplines

A new report from the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University finds that on average a person with a bachelor’s degree will earn 84 percent more over the course of his or her lifetime than a peer who only graduated from high school. So going to college continues to provide a major economic benefit.

But the earnings benefit of a college degree is not uniform across the major disciplines. And the racial gap in earnings can be quite different depending on the degree earned. In the field of education, black and white college graduates average identical earnings of $42,000. But in some areas, the racial earnings gap is large. For example, for year-round, full-time workers with a bachelor’s degree and no graduate degree, the racial gap in earnings for engineering is $20,000. But for graduates in the humanities and psychology, the racial earnings gap is only $4,000.

The Georgetown study further broke down the earnings data into specific majors. The results showed that for blacks the highest earning major was electrical engineering. Black graduates in this field had median earnings of $68,000. However, this was $22,000 lower than the median earnings of whites with bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering.

Other degree fields where black bachelor’s degree holders had median earnings above $60,000 were mechanical engineering, information sciences, computer science, general engineering, and nursing. Blacks and whites with nursing degrees had identical median earnings.

The bachelor’s degree field with the lowest median earnings for blacks is general medical and health sciences. Black bachelor’s degree holders in this field had median earnings of $32,000. This was $18,000 below the level for whites.

Other majors where black bachelor’s degree holders had median incomes below $40,000 were early childhood education, family and consumer sciences, human services and community organization, social work, fine arts, and physical fitness. In all these fields, whites had higher median earnings, although in many cases the differences were small.

Readers who are interested in downloading the complete 182-page report, can do so here.



Preserving the Home of the Woman Who Sought to Desegregate the University of North Carolina

A group of community organizations is teaming up with the Pauli Murray Project at Duke University to purchase and renovate the childhood home of civil rights activist Pauli Murray in Durham, North Carolina. The plan is to turn the house into a museum. The house was built by Murray’s grandfather, Robert Fitzgerald, who was a Civil War veteran.

Pauli Murray was born in 1910. As a young girl she was orphaned and moved to North Carolina to live with relatives. After graduating first in her high school class, she enrolled at Hunter College in New York City. But because of the Great Depression she was forced to leave school to go to work. In 1938, she sought to gain admission to the segregated University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her request was denied and she lost a legal battle to force the university to admit her.

In 1940, 15 years before Rosa Parks’ act of civil disobedience in Montgomery, Alabama, Murray was arrested in Virginia for refusing to move to the back of a bus to make room for a white rider in the front section. Murray later enrolled and graduated from the Howard University School of Law.

Murray was a co-founder of the Congress of Racial Equality and in 1977 became the first woman to be ordained an Episcopal priest.

Murray died in 1985.


Fisk University Offers New Dual-Degree Program in Engineering With the University of Tennessee

Fisk University, the historically black educational institution in Nashville, has announced that it will offer a new dual-degree program in engineering with the University of Tennessee. The five-year dual-degree program will have students complete three years of training in a science curriculum at Fisk. If they have maintained a minimum of a 2.8 grade point average, the students will then transfer to the University of Tennessee for two years of training in engineering. Upon completion of the five-year program, students will receive two bachelor’s degrees, one from each institution.

A Statistical Snapshot of the Nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that in 2009 there were 322,789 students enrolled at the nation’s historically black colleges and universities. This is the highest level in U.S. history. Of these 322,789 students, 197,123, or 61.1 percent, were women. Of the total enrollments at HBCUs, 264,090 students were African Americans. Thus, blacks were 81.8 percent of all enrollments at the nation’s HBCUs.

During the 2008-09 academic year, the nation’s historically black colleges and universities awarded more than 44,000 degrees. Here is the breakdown by degree level:

Associate’s degrees: 3,469
Bachelor’s degrees: 31,416
Master’s degrees: 7,228
Professional degrees: 1,908
Doctorates: 667



The Crisis in Black Male Unemployment

The nation’s unemployment rate moved above 9 percent in May, reversing a downward trend in recent months. As has been the case for over a half century, the black unemployment rate continues to be about twice the rate for whites. In May, 8 percent of whites were unemployed compared to 16 percent of blacks.

The official unemployment rate includes only those individuals who are out of work and actively seeking employment.

But there is an even more alarming statistic. Only 56.9 percent of all adult African-American men are employed. This is the lowest level since labor market participation rates were first collected in 1972. About 68 percent of all white adult men have jobs.



Grants and Gifts

Historically black Norfolk State University in Virginia received a $800,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to create a women's center on campus. The center will be open to both students and members of the surrounding community.

• Central Connecticut State University in New Britain received a five-year, $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for a program to increase the number of women and minority students who pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

The historically black University of the District of Columbia received a $424,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense. The research will investigate the feasibility of using underwater wireless networks.

• Oberlin College, the highly rated liberal arts institution in Ohio, received an anonymous gift of $1 million to endow a scholarship fund for four-year graduates of Oberlin High School. The fund will be named the William L. Robinson Scholars Program. Nine students entering Oberlin College this fall will make up the inaugural class of Robinson Scholars.

William L. Robinson, a 1963 graduate of Oberlin College and 1959 graduate of Oberlin High School, is a civil rights attorney and the founding dean of the University of the District of Columbia School of Law. He has also served on the Oberlin board of trustees.

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Blacks Are Only a Tiny Percentage of Faculty at British Universities

In the United States blacks make up about 5 percent of all full-time faculty at colleges and universities. There has been very little progress in increasing the percentage of black faculty over the past decades.

But as bad as the situation is here in the U.S., in the United Kingdom the small numbers of black faculty is striking. A recent survey by the Higher Education Statistics Agency found just 50 black professors among the 140,000 faculty members at British universities. Only 10 of the 50 black faculty are women. Blacks make up about 0.4 percent of all faculty. Whereas, blacks are about 2.8 percent of the population in England and Wales.

The University of Birmingham was the only British university with more than two black British professors with black Caribbean or black African backgrounds. Only six of the 133 British universities had more than two black professors with British citizenship or from foreign nations.



University Study Finds That Whites Believe They Are Now the Most Frequent Victims of Racial Discrimination

A poll conducted by researchers at Tufts University and Harvard Business School found that whites believe they are victimized by racial discrimination more often than blacks.

The article, “Whites See Racism as a Zero-sum Game That They Are Now Losing,” was published in the May issue of the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science.

Using a sliding scale of 1 to 10, black and white respondents were asked to what extent blacks and whites were victims of racial discrimination in every decade from the 1950s to the present. On the scale, 1 indicated “not at all” and 10 meant “very much.”

Both whites and blacks agreed that in the 1950s there was substantial discrimination against blacks and almost none against whites. Both blacks and whites responded that racial discrimination has decreased over the ensuing decades. But whites believe that racial discrimination against blacks has lessened at a faster rate.

But the most revealing finding is that in the present time whites believe bias against whites is greater than bias against blacks by a full point on the 1 to 10 scale. Some 11 percent of whites responded with the maximum rating of 10 for the level of anti-white bias. Only 2 percent of whites said that bias against blacks today rated a maximum score of 10.

Michael I. Norton of Harvard, one of the coauthors of the study, stated, “These data are the first to demonstrate that not only do whites think more progress has been made toward equality than do blacks, but whites also no believe that this progress is linked to a new inequality at their expense.”


Research Finds That Racial Divisions in Sports Participation Does Not Change for Highly Educated African Americans

A research study by sociology faculty at the University of Houston and the University of Colorado at Denver finds that African Americans who achieve a high level of education do not gravitate to so-called high status sports such as tennis and golf. In fact, the study published in the American Sociological Association’s Journal of Health and Social Behavior, finds that black professionals are less likely than blacks with lower levels of education to play tennis or golf. The study examined the recreational habits of 17,455 adults between the ages of 25 to 60. The results showed that blacks of all education levels were more likely to participate in team sports such as football and basketball or in personal fitness activities such as weightlifting or running.


Bennett College Announces Big Plans to Upgrade Its Campus

Bennett College for Women, the historically black educational institution in Greensboro, North Carolina, has announced plans for $45 million in capital improvement projects. The plan calls for the construction of a 35,000-square-foot library, a 25,000-square-foot health center, and a new dormitory to house 75 women. The three buildings are budgeted at about $22 million.

In addition, the college plans $19 million in renovations to existing structures. Among these projects is the conversion of the current library into a student center.


University of Maryland Eastern Shore Names an Interim President

Mortimer H. Neufville has been selected to serve as interim president of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. His appointment will begin on August 16, when current president Thelma B. Thompson will step down as president.

Dr. Neufville has served in many administrative positions at the university, including vice president for academic affairs. He is a graduate of Tuskegee University and holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in animal science from the University of Florida.

Appointments, Promotions, and Resignations

• Jonathan Modica was appointed assistant director of development for university programs at the University of Arkansas. He previously held positions at the university’s multicultural center and in the department of intercollegiate athletics.

Dr. Modica holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism and an educational doctorate from the University of Arkansas.

• Onye Ozuzu was named chair of the department of dance at Columbia College in Chicago. She was associate chair and director of dance in the department of theater and dance at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Ozuzu earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Florida State University.

• Kim Vaz was appointed associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Xavier University in New Orleans. She was an associate professor and founder of the Florida Consortium for Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of South Florida.

Dr. Vaz holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Tulane University. She earned a doctorate at Indiana University.

• Shawn Moyo Bediako has been promoted to associate professor of psychology with tenure at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.  He is the first African American to gain tenure in the department.

Dr. Bediako, who has taught at UMBC since 2005, is an Arkansas native and graduate of Florida A&M University.  He earned a Ph.D. in social/health psychology from Stony Brook University.

• Joshua A. Busby was promoted to annual giving officer at Langston University in Oklahoma. He had been serving since 2008 as coordinator of counseling in the Office of Financial Aid at Langston. 

Busby is a graduate of Langston University.  He also holds a master’s of public affairs degree from Indiana University at Bloomington.

• Cerri Banks was appointed dean at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. She will assume her new position on July 15. Dr. Banks has been serving as dean and professor of education at William Smith College in Geneva, New York.

Dean Banks holds bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees from Syracuse University.

• Charlotte H. Johnson was named dean at Dartmouth College. She was vice president and dean of the college at Colgate University.

Johnson was valedictorian at the University of Detroit, where she majored in psychology. She holds a law degree from the University of Michigan.


Honors and Awards

• Olusola Adesope, an assistant professor of education at Washington State University received the 2011 G.M. Dunlop Award from the Canadian Association for Educational Psychology for his research on whether visual or audio teaching techniques are more effective.

Professor Adesope earned a Ph.D. from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia.

• Leo E. Rouse, dean of the College of Dentistry at Howard University in Washington, D.C., received the Sterling V. Mead Award from the District of Columbia Dental Society for his research contributions to the dental profession.

Dr. Rouse received his dental training at Howard University.

• LeRoy Pernell, dean of the College of Law at Florida A&M University, received the Alumni Citation from Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Dean Pernell is a 1971 graduate of Franklin and Marshall and earned his law degree at Ohio State University.

• Nicola Edwards-Omolewa, an assistant professor of mathematics at Delaware State University in Dover, received the university’s 2011 Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award.

• Verjanis Peoples, dean of the College of Education at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, received the Empowering Leaders in Education Award from the president of the Southern University chapter of Phi Delta Kappa International.

Dr. Peoples holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Grambling State University and a doctorate from Kansas State University.



Copyright © 2011. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.