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College Grads Earn More, But Racial Disparities Persist

College Grads Earn More, But Racial Disparities Persist
By Toni Coleman

Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree earned almost twice as much as those with just a high school diploma, but income disparities across racial and gender lines persist, according to new U.S. Census Bureau data.

The data tables in “Educational Attainment in the United States: 2005” indicate bachelor’s-degree holders earned an average of $51,554 in 2004, compared to $28,645 earned by high school graduates and the $19,169 earned by those without a high school diploma.

Across all educational backgrounds, Black and Hispanic workers tended to earn less than their White and Asian counterparts, according to the data. Even having a bachelor’s degree did not equalize earnings across races. Blacks with bachelor’s degrees earned $42,342 while Hispanics earned $45,166, Asians earned $47,912 and Whites earned $53,411. Blacks with doctoral degrees earned $82,615, compared to $94,426 earned by Whites.

More women than men reported holding at least an associate’s degree, but women did not outpace men in earnings. On average, women with bachelor’s degrees earned 61 percent of what men with bachelor’s degrees earned.

Dr. William Spriggs, chair of the economics department at Howard University, says women continue to face occupational discrimination, being segregated in positions that pay less than other positions requiring the same level of education, such as teaching and nursing.
Spriggs says the racial income disparities can’t be explained away with achievement gaps, the theory that Blacks would earn less in the marketplace because they’re not as skilled, as demonstrated by lower test scores. Previous analyses indicate the annual earnings of Blacks are less than that of Whites with the same test scores.

“I think you’re looking at discrimination in pay,” Spriggs says.

White men with a high school diploma earned, on average, $36,324 — more than the average earnings of a Hispanic women with a bachelor’s degree ($34,949).

Dr. Roderick Harrison, director of Databank at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, says factors contributing to racial pay disparities include regional differences in pay, types of degrees earned as well as discrimination.

“The key thing is this, if you’re a Black male or a Black female, getting additional education will considerably improve your life. Education is worth it since you open yourself up to higher paying jobs and higher lifetime earnings,” Harrison says. “If you’re comparing yourself to your White classmates, you do have difficulty converting the same educational level into comparable earnings. That is an area where we have not seen changes.”

The data came from an annual survey of 100,000 households nationwide conducted each spring on social and economic issues.

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