New Census data is out showing Latina/os and Native Americans, as well as Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islanders, are lagging far behind the rest of the nations in higher education degree attainment. Ogunwole, et al, report in “The Population With a Bachelor’s Degree or Higher by Race and Hispanic Origin: 2006-2010” detail the educational attainment among population groups using data from the American Community Survey Briefs that were conducted from 2006 – 2010.
Of the total 199 + Million people in the United States age 25 or older, only 27.9% have a bachelor’s degree or higher. The breakdowns from there get more dismal unless you are “White alone” (29.3%), “Asian alone” (50.2%), or significantly “Two or More Races” (24.5%). Each of these population groups had more than 20% with a bachelor’s or higher. Aside from getting into racial definitions of these findings, this a troubling statistic considering that everyone else listed in the survey fall well below the 20% mark.
Latina/os, Native Americans, and people who are “Some Other Race Alone,” are the groups with the lowest percentages who have earned a bachelor’s or higher degree, but the “or higher degree” numbers are even more dismal. 13% of the Latina/o population has a bachelor’s degree or higher, and of that only 4.1% have a graduate or professional degree. Native Americans fair slightly better with 14.4% of that population holding at least a bachelor’s degree with 4.4% having earned a graduate or professional degree. The “some other race alone” category is the most dismal of the report with 10% holding a bachelor’s and a minuscule 2.9% with a graduate or professional degree.
These numbers are not startling — it’s something we have known for a while — but it time to stop ignoring them. How well people live, their access to “success,” and their ability to contribute to our society and economy all depend on the level of their education. The national unemployment rate is significantly less for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher. According to the April 2012 unemployment date from the Bureau of Labor Statistics those with a college degree have a 4% unemployment rate, but those without any college level training (not including those who don’t even have a high school diploma) are unemployed at a rate of 7.9%. Add those without a high school diplome or equivalent and that number reaches closer to 20%.
The data released from the Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics show that much more work is needed to be done in several communities to raise college degree attainment levels. It does not help that states across the nation, namely California and Texas, are cutting funding for state universities and colleges at dramatic rates. Underserved communities, such as the Latina/os and Native Americans, deserve equal access to higher education, and through that equal access to economic and social opportunities in the United States.
Visit the Census Bureau website for more data from the American Community Survey Briefs report.