African-American students need to complete two more levels of education to have the same probability of getting a job as their white peers, a new study by Young Invincibles finds.
The researchers looked at data mainly from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census, isolating the effects of race and education on unemployment. They found that an African-American male with an associates degree has around the same chance of getting a job as a white male with just a high school diploma. “At every level of education, race impacts a person’s chance of getting a job,” Tom Allison, a research manager and one of the study’s authors, told ThinkProgress.
The gap in employment chances between whites and African Americans leads to a huge gap in unemployment rates, even long after the recession. In May of this year, African-American millennials faced a 16.6 percent unemployment rate, compared to a 7.1 percent rate for whites of the same age range (18 to 34 years old).
The study attributes the employment gap mainly to hiring discrimination, high incarceration rates for black people, and African Americans’ lack of inherited wealth from past generations due to a long history of discrimination. Less inherited wealth results in low homeownership rates and high deficits among African Americans: While a college-educated white American has an average net worth of $75,000, a college-educated black American has a net worth of less than $17,500.
But according to Rory O’Sullivan, Young Invincibles’ deputy director, there’s some good news.
According to the study, even though unemployment is higher among African Americans at every level of education, the added gains in income and employment opportunities gained from getting an additional degree is much greater for African Americans than whites. For example, a professional degree gives a black male a 146 percent larger increase in employment opportunities than his white counterparts. A bachelor’s degree raises the median wage of a black man by $10,000 per year, compared to a raise of $6,100 per year for a white man.
Allison also emphasized that the racial gap for both women and men gets smaller with higher and higher degrees. The employment gap between black and white men with bachelors degrees is only 5 percent. For women, it’s just 3 percent.
Even so, African Americans are much less likely to attain higher education degrees than whites, even though such degrees are becoming more and more valuable compared to high school degrees. According to Census Bureau data, blacks are almost twice as likely as whites to drop out of high school and are half as likely to get a post-baccalaureate degree.
As for solutions, Young Invincibles suggests early counseling to raise awareness of the benefits of college for African American students, more investment in community colleges and Pell Grants, and the implementation of alternatives to Affirmative Action for increasing diversity in states where Affirmative Action has been banned.