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The Wide Variations in the Black-White Higher Education Gap in America's Largest Cities

FYI-I thought this was pretty informative...

The Wide Variations in the Black-White Higher Education Gap in America's Largest Cities

Compared to blacks in other cities, African Americans in San Francisco and Los Angeles are a highly educated group. In fact, African Americans in Los Angeles are almost as likely as whites in the city to hold a college degree. This result is undoubtedly due to California's strong commitment over the past 30 years to public higher education for people of all economic and ethnic groups.
Here are the high school and college completion records in a number of America's largest cities.

In the Spring 2003 issue of JBHE, we compared the differences in high school completion and college graduation rates of blacks and whites in the nation's 25 most populous states.

Now we present parallel information comparing black-white performances in educational attainment among adults who reside in the nation's 15 most populous cities or metropolitan areas.

According to recently available data, 79.2 percent of all African Americans in the United States over the age of 25 have a high school diploma. Unexpectedly, we discover that African Americans who reside in the nation's 15 largest metropolitan areas tend to have a higher level of educational attainment than African Americans generally in the United States. In 12 of the 15 largest metropolitan areas in the nation, the percentage of African Americans who have graduated from high school is higher than the national average for blacks. This is true despite the fact that many of the predominantly black schools in the inner city are of inferior quality and offer little incentive for blacks to go to or stay in school. Here it must be conceded that the poor quality of these inner-city schools may in fact permit some black students who would have dropped out of a higher quality suburban or rural high school to remain in school and receive a diploma. Also, if there is a high dropout rate of black students in some central city schools, this is perhaps offset by the very high rate of high school completions achieved by the increasingly larger number of black students in suburban districts that for statistical purposes are included in the metropolitan area.

There are many reasons why people "” both black and white "” who live in cities show relatively high levels of educational attainment compared to rural residents. Contrary to general belief, urban residents tend to have more educational choices during their high school years and therefore they may be more likely than rural residents to remain in school. For example, many cities have specialized public high schools for students interested in science, the performing arts, studio arts, vocational education, film, and other areas of study. In addition, cities have a large variety of private, parochial, and religious schools that offer even more in the way of educational options. Many rural areas have only one high school, public or private. This may lead to a comparatively lower level of high school completion in these areas. In addition, residents of rural areas may be inclined to leave high school in order to work on family farms.

Also, blacks in inner-city metropolitan areas may be more inclined than African Americans in rural areas to stay in school because of a lack of jobs in these economically depressed center-city neighborhoods. Transportation to school is also much easier for blacks who live in urban areas than it is for blacks who live in rural areas, particularly in the South. This too may lead to a greater tendency for blacks in urban areas to stay in school.

The Best-Performing Cities for African-American High School Completions

Among the 15 most heavily populated cities, San Francisco has the highest rate of black high school completions. More than 94 percent of black adults in San Francisco have completed high school. This figure is higher than the high school completion rate for whites in the nation as a whole. Blacks in Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Cleveland, and Dallas also have a high rate of high school completion.

The three cities with lower high school completion rates for blacks than the national average for African Americans are New York, Boston, and Miami. These three cities are more likely than many of the other major U.S. cities to have recent black immigrants to the United States from Ethiopia, Somalia, Haiti and other island nations of the Caribbean. Many of these recent immigrants left their foreign homes before completing their high school education. When they reached our shores these immigrants were often forced to sacrifice education in order to enter the work force to support themselves and their families.

Racial Differences in African-American College Completions in the Nation's Largest Cities

Nationwide 17.2 percent of all black adults over the age of 25 have a four-year college degree. But as was the case for high school completions, in 12 of the 15 most heavily populated cities in the United States, the black college completion rate is higher than the national average.

Urban areas generally tend to have high wage jobs that attract college graduates. This is a major reason why the college completion rate for blacks in urban areas is higher than the national average.

In general there are many more higher educational opportunities for black residents of metropolitan areas. In many cases there are relatively low priced, publicly operated urban universities as well as many private institutions of higher education. As a result, young adults who live in the nation's largest cities are more likely to be able to live at home while attending college. This tends to make college more affordable.

Young adults in rural areas must often pay room and board to attend a college far from home. These students also incur travel expenses to and from college, expenses that need not be borne by urban residents who want to attend college.

Cities With High Percentages of College-Educated Blacks

Once again, among the nation's 15 most heavily populated cities, San Francisco leads in college completions by African-American adults. More than 30 percent of all adult blacks who reside in the San Francisco Bay Area are college educated. This is higher than the nationwide average for white adults. In both Atlanta and Washington, D.C., more than one quarter of all black adults hold a college degree.

The three cities with lower college completion rates for blacks than the national average for all African Americans are Detroit, Cleveland, and St. Louis. These cities tend to be older industrial cities which have not developed high-tech industries that generally attract employees with a high degree of education.

It is interesting to note that the city of Miami, which ranked last among the 15 largest cities in high school completions, has a high college completion rate for blacks. This shows a major class division among the black population in the city. Large numbers of newly arrived immigrants with low levels of education coexist with a significant presence of African Americans with college degrees who make up a prosperous middle class.

Comparing the Black-White College Completion Gap in Major Cities

Currently, the nationwide gap between the college completion rate for black and white adults is 12.2 percentage points. For black adults, 17.2 percent have a college degree compared to 29.4 percent of whites. But when we look at how blacks compare to whites in college completions in the nation's 15 most heavily populated metropolitan areas, we find that in 10 of the 15 cities, blacks perform below the national average.

It is necessary to point out that while blacks who live in large cities have on average a higher rate of college completion than blacks nationally, whites, too, who live in large cities tend to be a highly educated group.

For example, in Washington, D.C., a large number of workers of all races work in the federal bureaucracy. Therefore, in the city there is an extremely high percentage of adults who hold a college degree. Despite the fact that a quarter of all black adults in Washington, D.C., have a college degree, the city has the highest racial differential between the college completion rates of blacks and whites. More than 47 percent of all white adults in the Washington area hold a college degree.

In sharp contrast, the college completion rate for blacks and whites in the city of Los Angeles is almost identical. This small black-white gap in college completion rates is largely due to a very low percentage of college completions among Mexican American citizens in the city who are categorized as white in Census Bureau classifications. Only 6.7 percent of all Hispanic adults in the city of Los Angeles hold a college diploma. If we include only Anglo whites in the calculations for Los Angeles, the racial gap in college completions would be similar to that which occurs nationwide.

Miami and San Francisco also have small differences in the college completion rates for blacks and whites. Hispanic adults in San Francisco tend to pull down the overall average for college completions among whites, but Hispanics in Miami have a higher rate of college completion than do blacks who live in that city.

The high college completion rates of black adults and the relatively low difference in educational attainments between blacks and whites in the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco are partly a reflection too of the superior publicly operated state system of higher education in the state of California. Over the past 35 years, the California system of higher education has provided a great opportunity for young blacks to pursue a higher education. But now the California higher educational system, which has produced amazing college completion results over the past several decades, is no longer permitted to take race into account when considering students for admission. It seems likely that in the years ahead the educational gap in college completions between blacks and whites in the large cities of California will increase.
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