Survey: Black, Latino Parents Believe College Vital for Success

But has an increase in Latinos and Blacks earning college degrees decreased the racial wealth gap?

Latino and Black parents are significantly more likely than white parents to believe it’s essential that their children earn a college degree, according to a Pew Research Center survey.

Released in February, the survey found 86 percent of Latino and 79 percent of Black parents with children under the age of 18 said it is either extremely or very important their children earn a college degree. However, only 67 percent of white parents said the same.

Blacks and Latinos also view college education as a requirement to be part of the middle class. Data suggests whites are more likely to already be in the middle class or higher, which the author says might be a reason why fewer whites see college as essential.

Hispanic and black Pew Research

“When you have a certain level of income and comfort, you realize two things,” José Luis Santos of The Education Trust, a advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., said in an interview. “If I have some financial means, I want my child to go to college, but if my child doesn’t … I have much more social and cultural capital to know that they can succeed in other ways — starting a business — without having a degree.”

The findings are based on a subsection of data from a “Parenting in America” survey that Pew published in December.

Information included in the report states Black and Latino parents are much more likely than whites to believe their children’s successes and failures are mainly a reflection of the job they are doing as parents. Whites are more likely to say a child’s success or failure reflects his own strengths or weaknesses.

Related Story: Millennial Latinos Largest Group of Eligible Voters

Since 1993 college enrollment has grown among all races, but gains have been biggest among Latinos. According to Pew, “In October 2014, 2.3 million Hispanics ages 18 to 24 were enrolled in either a two- or four-year college — up from 728,000 in 1993.”

But Latinos still trail other groups. In 2014 for adults ages 25 to 29, 63 percent of Asians, 41 percent of whites, 22 percent of Blacks and 15 percent of Latinos had earned at least a bachelor’s degree in 2014.

Has an increase in Latinos and Blacks earning four-year degrees helped narrow the racial wealth gap?

A report released in August, “Why Didn’t Higher Education Protect Hispanic and Black Wealth?,” found that college-educated Blacks and Latinos overall earn significantly more and are in a better position to accumulate wealth than Blacks and Latinos who do not obtain degrees.

The authors of the report are William R. Emmons, an economist, and Bryan J. Noeth, a policy analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, which serves as a center for local, national and global economic research.

Median Family Income in 2013 

Four-Year College Grads Non-College Grads
Latinos $68,379 $30,436
Black $52,147 $26,581
Asian $92,931 $32,668
White $94,351 $41,474

(Source: “Why Didn’t Higher Education Protect Hispanic and Black Wealth?”)

Median Family Net Worth in 2013

Four-Year College Grads Non-College Grads
Latino $49,606 $12,160
Black $32,780 $9,006
Asian $250,637 $25,632
White $359,928 $80,692

(Source:“Why Didn’t Higher Education Protect Hispanic and Black Wealth?”)

However, college-educated Blacks and Latinos fared worse in the Great Recession (the financial crisis of 2007–08 and U.S. subprime mortgage crisis of 2007–09) than those without a degree. White and Asian families with four-year college degrees survived the recession much better and have accumulated much more wealth over the long term.

Between 2007 and 2013, “the median wealth declined by about 72 percent among Latino college-grad families versus a decline of only 41 percent among Latino families without a college degree. Among Blacks, the declines were 60 percent versus 37 percent.”

Figure 1

Figure 2

According to the authors, relative changes in family income may have contributed to the better wealth experience of college-educated Asian families and the worse experience of college-educated Black families.

Meanwhile, changes in median incomes among whites and Latinos “run counter to their respective wealth changes. Therefore, the link between changes in income and changes in wealth is imperfect at best, at least during the most recent economic cycle.”

Report: Whites No Longer Majority, Asians Largest Immigrant Group

In explaining wealth declines of Black and Latino graduates during the recession and its aftermath, the authors cite job-market difficulties (specific to Latino and Black college graduates) over the long term, as well as financial choices, which they say probably played a bigger role than income fluctuations in determining wealth outcomes in recent years. For example, college-educated Black and Latino families who were victims of predatory subprime mortgage loans accumulated a huge amount of debt when the housing bubble collapsed.

The report concludes:

Higher education alone cannot level the playing field. Evidence presented here suggests that college degrees alone do not provide short-term wealth protection, nor do they guarantee long-term wealth accumulation. The underlying factors causing racial and ethnic wealth disparities undoubtedly are complex and deeply rooted. Further research is needed.


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  • Ann Borkowski

    This information is so important. It underscores the devastating and ongoing effects of racism. I thank the researchers for this work.

    It is in the ‘explaining’, of these disparities, that I feel the need to comment. Specifically, I take exception to the thought that ‘financial choices’ played a ‘bigger role’ in creating these income and wealth gaps ‘more recently’. I feel those words blame the victim.

    There is an assumption that there is real choice playing out in these decisions. I feel racism changes what are real choices, what is actually offered as well as the cumulative effects on individuals whose every (financial) decision has a negative racial component. Additionally, the perveyors of predatory loans have huge resources to craft their pitch and huge access to technology that can target individuals as well as groups of individuals.

    The conclusion returns to the actual research and says more research is needed to really understand these wealth and income gaps. In the meantime, I suggest our country work towards ending individual and institutional racism and maybe that research will not be necessary.

  • But Black and Latino/a aren’t the only minority races in America, eh?

    Black, Latino Parents Believe College Vital for Success, so that’s why such a greater proportion of Asian parents actually follow thru and put their kids in private schools or after-school tutoring?

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