Does College Neutralize Racial Disparities?

Getting a significant proportion of ethnic minorities into college, and out with degrees, will have a dramatic effect on alleviating racial economic disparities in the U.S. This has long been a staple of any argument about race and education in the US.

It turns out that the truth is more complicated. With the latest economic downturn it is becoming evident that even the college degrees do not help as much as one might expect. Even with a college degree, racial disparities remain.

Almost 8.5 percent of black male college graduates over 25 are unemployed. That is nearly twice the rate of unemployment for white men with college degrees.

From a New York Times article on the subject comes news that:

Black job seekers have a harder time than whites. A study published several years ago in The American Economic Review titled “Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?” found that applicants with black-sounding names received 50 percent fewer callbacks than those with white-sounding names.

A more recent study, published this year in The Journal of Labor Economics found white, Asian and Hispanic managers tended to hire more whites and fewer blacks than black managers did.

The economic downturn makes this disparity even more pronounced than before. While ethnic diversity is always something touted by executives at large companies, many worry that prejudices and implicit racism continue to exist in hiring practices. In the words of Terelle Hairston, 25-year-old Yale graduate seeking a job: “You even worry that the hiring manager may not be as interested in diversity as the H.R. manager or upper management.”

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer