Study Finds Black Students More Underrepresented at Top Colleges Than Was the Case in 1980

An extensive analysis by The New York Times finds that African Americans are more underrepresented at the nation’s top colleges than was the case 35 years ago. The newspaper compared the percentage of Black students in the entering classes at the nation’s 100 top colleges and universities with the percentage of Blacks among all college-age Americans. The study found that in 2015, Blacks made up 6 percent of the entering students at the top schools but 15 percent of all college-age Americans, a gap of 9 percentage points. In 1980 the gap was only 7 percentage points. It must be noted, and the Times correctly points out, that the new Department of Education racial categories introduced in 2008 removed biracial students from the “Black” group. Thus, the group of Black students in 1980 included biracial or multiracial students with some African American heritage but this was not the case in 2015.

At Ivy League schools the gap in 2015 was 7 percentage points, one point higher than in 1980. At the high-ranking liberal arts colleges, the gap of 8 percentage points in 2015 was one point higher than in 1980.

A more pronounced and widening gap appears at flagship state universities in states with a significant Black populations. At these universities Blacks were 6 percent of incoming students in 2015, producing a percentage point gap of nine points. In 1980, the gap was 7 percentage points.

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