Study Ranks States by Disparities in Racial Equality in Education

A new report from WalletHub reports on differences in racial equality in education among the 50 states. In order to produce the rankings, WalletHub compared data on Blacks and Whites in the following areas:

  • Share of Adults with at Least a High School Degree
  • Share of Adults with at Least a Bachelor’s Degree
  • Standardized-Test Scores in Public Schools
  • Mean SAT Score
  • Average ACT Score
  • Public High School Graduation Rate

The results showed that most of the states that had achieved the greatest equality were states with small Black populations. New Mexico topped the list. Wyoming, West Virginia, Oregon, and Vermont completed the top five as having the most racial equality in education. Wyoming, Vermont, and New Mexico had the smallest racial gap in college degree attainment.

In contrast, Wisconsin had the most racial inequality in education outcomes. Minnesota, Connecticut, New York, and Nebraska were in the bottom five. These states have larger numbers of Black students and they also have a high rate of school segregation where many Black students go the schools that have s majority of students from nonwhite racial and ethnic groups. Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York had the largest racial gaps in college degree completion.

Crystal Renee Chambers, a professor of educational leadership at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, stated in the report that “recent years have brought increases in racial isolation within schools and an increase in the number of racially identifiable schools. Given correlations between race and wealth with attendant reliance on local property taxes to fund education, there is a racially identifiable impact on school funding. Racial wealth gaps not only impact the ability of localities to fund K-12 education but the ability of students and their families to finance higher education.”

It must be noted too that large racial gaps in some of these metrics can be misleading. For example, Massachusetts ranks next to last in racial equality of college completions. But the actual percentage of Blacks with college degrees in Massachusetts is very high compared to many other states. The racial gap is large in Massachusetts due to an extraordinarily high rate of college completion among Whites.

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