Higher Education Does Little to Shrink the Racial Gap in Earnings

epi_logoA recent JBHE post documented the large and persistent racial gap in family incomes in the United States. It is generally believed that education is a major pathway forward to shrink or eliminate the income gap in this country.

But while it is clear that education, particularly higher education, is a major factor for increasing income, a new report from the Economic Policy Institute finds that very large racial earnings gaps remain for people at all education levels. The conclusion is that although education raises earnings and incomes, it does very little to close the gap between the races.

The data shows that there is an hourly racial wage gap of about $3.75 for Black and White workers with a high school diploma but no further education. But for those with a bachelor’s degree or a graduate degree, there is a racial wage gap of more than $6 an hour.

Furthermore, the data in the study shows that the racial wage gap has expanded more for people with a higher education degree than for other members of society. The authors of the study write that “since 1979, the gaps between Black and White workers have grown the most among workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher—the most educated workers. More school will certainly increase wages, but education alone is not enough to overcome the effects of racial discrimination in pay.”

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  1. African Americans overwhelmingly major in low-paying majors. The gap between the races for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher is because of this and is elaborated on in detail in Maya Beasley’s book “Opting Out”.

    • My experience (40+ years as an engineer and manager) has discerned that defense contractors are notorious in their under employment (lack of utilizing skill levels and explicit knowledge deployment) of Black American engineers and scientists. Much of the bias is the disparate treatment of those that attended HBCUs, but typically this systemic discrimination has been pervasive for most Black Americans employed throughout DOD for years. The unequivocal low levels of Black management in the defense contractor ranks are purposely created to impede advancement.

  2. What’s lacking in the Black community is a zest for entrepreneurship. Our youth should be taught entrepreneurialism. What college does the best in is teaching students critical thinking skills, but many students are leaving college not being able to master that. I believe that some African-Americans are going to college to get a degree, regardless of what it’s in, because they think any degree will be enough for them to get an above average job. But in reality, that’s not always the case.

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