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Study: Black College Students, White High School Graduates Share Same Employment Prospects

black construction workerAt a time when African-American young people are far more likely than their white peers to be unemployed, working part-time and earning a lower wage, a new study reveals that Black students need to complete two more levels of education to have the same probability of getting a job as their white peers.

For African-American millennials—those between the ages 18 to 34—the unemployment rate in May was 16.6 percent, compared to a 7.1 percent rate for whites of the same age range. In addition, African-American men in that age range are 30 percent more likely to be working a part-time position than white men of the same age group (approximately 1 in 4 of them are working part-time). In 2012, the median income of African-American millennials was $19,800, compared to $25,000 for whites.

In an effort to discover how to close this employment gap, the researchers from the nonprofit group Young Invincibles used data primarily from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census. The gist of their conclusion is that an African-American male with an associates degree has about 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.

As for the reasons for the gap, racism in the hiring process was clearly a huge factor, but the researchers listed a number of other factors: high incarceration rates for Black people, less economic and educational opportunity due to a lack of inherited wealth, lower marriage rates (studies have found many employers discriminate against people who aren’t married during the hiring process), and living in locations that are far away from the jobs.

The Young Invincibles study did have good news: at the higher education levels, the employment difference between Blacks and whites begins to disappear.

For example, the employment gap between black and white men with bachelor’s degrees is only 5 percent. For women, it’s just 3 percent.

But on the down side, African-Americans are much less likely to attain higher education degrees than whites. 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, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.


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