Unequal Opportunity: Race and Equity in Higher Education

Bahar Imboden in Inversant:

In her poignant essay “What is Owed,” Nikole Hannah Jones paints a compelling picture of the inequity and inequality faced by black Americans. In it, Jones shares the disparity between class, income, and wealth. 

“So much of what makes black lives hard, what takes black lives earlier, what causes black Americans to be vulnerable to the type of surveillance and policing that killed Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, what steals opportunities, is the lack of wealth that has been a defining feature of black life since the end of slavery.”

Wealth is power, security, and peace of mind. Our higher education system, like our entire system, has failed at providing black Americans a path to building wealth and financial stability. Black and African American communities have long dealt with a targeted message: The belief that a college degree is the key to upward economic mobility. There’s the promise of higher wage premiums – the difference in wage between college and non-college graduates. The result is higher wealth formation, which is central to the great American Dream.

But for black communities, it’s remained an unattainable dream.

While a  college degree might bring higher wages to black people, it still falls behind their white peers. This explains the stubborn and growing wage gap between white and white communities. However, when it comes to forming wealth, college does nothing for black Americans. Economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis show that on average, black families headed by college graduates born in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s haven’t accumulated more wealth than households headed by black, non-college graduates born in the same decades. In fact, the authors of the study conclude that whites are the only racial or ethnic group for whom college provides a reliable wealth advantage over non-college graduate families.

More here. (Note: Throughout February, at least one post will be dedicated to Black History Month. The theme for 2023 is Black Resistance. Please send us anything you think is relevant for inclusion)