Black-White Differences in Educational Attainment
A. Main Findings
Blacks having similar levels of prior educational achievement as whites had received a high school diploma or General Educational Development (GED) certificate at an equal or higher rate than whites. For young adults with similar levels of prior educational achievement in the same four samples observed between 1979 and 1992, the postsecondary educational attainment of blacks was as high as, or higher than, that of whites.7 For such young adults, the college attendance rate was higher for blacks than for whites. Further, black college attendees with levels of prior educational achievement similar to those for whites completed college at rates similar to, or higher than, the rates for white college attendees.
B. High School/GED Completion Rates
Black-white differences in high school/GED completion rates could be compared for every sample of young adults except the 1979 sample.8 A black-white gap in high school/GED completion rates (in the range of 2 to 8 percentage points) was evident in the 19831989, 19861992, and 1992 samples. For young adults with similar levels of prior educational achievement, blacks received high school diplomas or GED certificates at a rate similar to or higher than whites.
C. College Attendance Rates
Young adults observed between 1979 and 1992 generally showed a black-white gap in college attendance rates (figure 3). Compared with whites, blacks had a 4- to 7-percentage-point lower rate of college attendance in the 1979 and 19831989 samples, and a 10-percentage-point lower rate of college attendance in the 1992 sample.9 In contrast, for young adults with similar levels of prior educational achievement, blacks had a 6- to 17-percentage-point higher rate of college attendance than whites.
D. College Completion Rates
For young adults who had attended at least some college, college completion rates10 were consistently lower for blacks than for whites (figure 4). The black-white gap in college completion ranged from about 13 percentage points in the 1979 sample to about 19 percentage points in the other three samples. Again, in contrast, among college attendees with similar levels of prior educational achievement, the college completion rate of blacks equaled or exceeded that of whites.
Figure 4 College completion rates for black and white young adults, 19791992
7. The analyses of educational attainment outcomes focused on the same four samples of young adults studied for the analyses of labor market outcomes. Black-white differences in postsecondary educational attainment were generally similar for males and females.
8.High school/GED completion status was ambiguous for individuals in the 1979 sample.
9.In the 19861992 sample, the black-white difference in college attendance was significant for men (8 percent) but not for women or for young adults as a whole.
10.College completion is defined here as completion of at least four years of college or an equivalent bachelors degree.