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Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Minorities
NCES 2007-039
September 2007


Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Minorities examines the educational progress and challenges that racial and ethnic minorities face in the United States. This report shows that over time larger numbers of minorities have completed high school and continued their education in college. Despite these gains, progress has varied, and differences persist among Hispanic, Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, and White students on key indicators of educational performance.

Preprimary, elementary, and secondary education
Student behaviors
Postsecondary participation
Outcomes of education


  • In 2005, minorities made up 33 percent of the U.S. population. Hispanics were the largest minority group, representing 14 percent of the population, followed by Blacks (12 percent), Asians/Pacific Islanders (4 percent), and American Indians/Alaska Natives (1 percent). Minorities are predicted to represent 39 percent of the total population by the year 2020. (Indicator 1)
  • In 2005, the proportions of Hispanics and Asians who were born outside the United States were larger than the foreign-born proportions of other racial/ethnic groups shown. In 2005, approximately 40 percent of the 41.9 million Hispanics and 68 percent of the 12.3 million Asians in the United States were foreign born. (Indicator 2)
  • Overall, in 2005, the percentages of families with children in poverty were higher for Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, Hispanic, and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander families than for White and Asian families. (Indicator 4)
  • In 2005, Asian/Pacific Islander and White children ages 6 to 18 were more likely to have parents with higher levels of educational attainment than were Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native children. (Indicator 5)


Preprimary, elementary, and secondary education:

  • In 2005, White, Black, and Asian/Pacific Islander 3- to 5-year-olds were more likely to be enrolled in center-based preprimary programs than were Hispanic 3- to 5-year-olds; 3- to 5-year-olds whose families were at or above the poverty line were more likely to be enrolled than were those whose families were in poverty. (Indicator 6)
  • From 1993 to 2003, minorities increased as a proportion of public school enrollment, with schools in central city areas experiencing the most growth in the percentage of minority students. Hispanic students accounted for much of the increase in minorities in all types of locales. (Indicator 7.1)
  • In 2004, minorities made up 42 percent of public prekindergarten through secondary school enrollment. The percentage of minority enrollment in individual states, however, ranged from 95 percent in the District of Columbia to 4 percent in Vermont. (Indicator 7.2)
  • In 2005, Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native students were more likely to be eligible for the free and reduced-price lunch program than were their White and Asian/Pacific Islander peers. Black and Hispanic students were also the most likely to attend high-poverty schools (as gauged by program eligibility), while Asian/Pacific Islander students were the most likely to attend low-poverty schools. (Indicator 7.4)
  • In 2005, the majority of Black and Hispanic students attended schools with high minority enrollment (75 percent or more), while Asian/Pacific Islander and American Indian/Alaska Native students were more evenly distributed across schools with different levels of minority enrollment. (Indicator 7.5)
  • In 2005, the percentages of students who spoke a language other than English at home were higher among Hispanic and Asian elementary and secondary students than among elementary and secondary students of all other racial/ethnic groups shown. Similarly, Hispanic, Asian, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native students had the highest percentages of students who spoke English with difficulty, while White and Black students had the lowest percentages. (Indicator 8)



  • On the 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading assessment, higher percentages of Asian/Pacific Islander and White 4th-graders and 8th-graders scored at or above Proficient than did American Indian/Alaska Native, Black, and Hispanic students at the same grade levels. On the 4th- and 8th-grade mathematics assessment, a higher proportion of Asians/Pacific Islanders scored at or above Proficient than did 4th- and 8th-graders of all other races/ethnicities shown. (Indicator 10)
  • From 1999 to 2005, the number of students taking Advanced Placement (AP) exams increased by a larger percentage among minority students than among White students. Asians had the highest mean AP exam score, while Blacks had the lowest. (Indicator 13)



  • In 2003, a higher percentage of Black elementary and secondary students than elementary and secondary students of any other race/ethnicity shown had been suspended from school at some point. Additionally, a higher percentage of elementary and secondary Black students had been retained a grade or expelled than was the case for White, Hispanic, or Asian/Pacific Islander elementary and secondary students. (Indicator 16)
  • In 2005, the percentage of 16- to 24-year-olds who were high school status dropouts was higher among Hispanics than among Blacks, Whites, and Asian/Pacific Islanders, and higher among Blacks and American Indian/Alaska Natives than among Whites and Asians/Pacific Islanders. (Indicator 17)


Student behaviors:

  • In 2004, higher percentages of White, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Hispanic children ages 12 to 17 reported that they had consumed alcohol in the past month than did Black and Asian children of the same ages. In addition, higher percentages of American Indian/Alaska Native and White children ages 12 to 17 reported smoking cigarettes or using marijuana in the past month than did 12- to 17-year-olds of any other race/ethnicity shown. (Indicator 20)
  • Birth rates for 15- to 19-year-old females of all races/ethnicities rose from 1985 to 1991 and declined from 1991 to 2004. While Black teenagers had the highest birth rates from 1990 to 1994, Hispanic teenagers have had the highest birth rate among teenagers of all races/ethnicities shown since 1995. Asian/Pacific Islander teenagers have had consistently lower birth rates than their peers. (Indicator 21)


Postsecondary participation:

  • Between 1976 and 2004, the percentage of total undergraduate enrollment who were minority students increased from 17 to 32 percent. By 1980, the percentage of females enrolled as undergraduates surpassed the percentage of males enrolled as undergraduates. In 2004, the gender gap was largest for Black undergraduates. (Indicator 23.1)
  • In the 2003-04 school year, a larger percentage of Black than White, Hispanic, and Asian/Pacific Islander students received financial aid, while a smaller percentage of Asians/Pacific Islanders received aid than any other race/ethnicity shown. (Indicator 24)
  • In 2004, more postsecondary degrees were awarded to Blacks than Hispanics, despite the fact that Hispanics made up a larger percentage of the total population. Among those who earned degrees, the proportions of degrees conferred at the associate's level were higher among Hispanics and American Indians/Alaska Natives than among the other racial/ethnic groups. The proportions of first-professional degrees awarded to Asians/Pacific Islanders were higher than those of the other racial/ethnic groups. A similar proportion of White and Asian/Pacific Islander degree recipients earned doctoral degrees in 2004. (Indicator 25.1)


Outcomes of education:

  • From 1990 to 2005, all racial/ethnic groups shown experienced an increase in the percentage of adults age 25 and over who had completed high school, and the percentages of White, Black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native adults with bachelor's degrees also increased. During the same time period, the gap between White and Black adults in terms of high school completions narrowed, while there was no measurable change in the White-Hispanic gap. In 2005, higher percentages of Asian/Pacific Islander, White, and Black adults than American Indian/Alaska Native and Hispanic adults had completed bachelor's degrees as their highest level of education. (Indicator 26)
  • In 2005, the median income for all adults over age 25 was $40,000. For all racial/ethnic groups shown, median income increased as educational attainment increased. Among males, Asians/Pacific Islanders and Whites had higher median incomes ($50,000 and $49,000, respectively) than did males of other racial/ethnic groups. Among females, Asians/Pacific Islanders and Whites had higher median incomes ($38,000 and $35,000, respectively) than did Blacks ($30,000) and Hispanics and American Indians/Alaska Natives (both $26,000). (Indicator 28)


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National Center for Education Statistics -
U.S. Department of Education