WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — In the report, “A College Degree is No Guarantee” from the Center for Economic and Policy Research, study authors Janelle Jones and John Schmitt find that the Great Recession has been difficult for all recent college graduates, but black graduates remain the hardest hit by unemployment.
The study shows that in 2013, 12.4 percent of black college students who earned their diplomas between the ages of 22 and 27 were unemployed. In contrast, college graduates as a whole had an unemployment rate of half that – 5.6 percent.
Just prior to the Great Recession, the unemployment rate for black college graduates stood at 4.6 percent in 2007. But that number tripled by 2013, boosting up nearly 8 percentage points. In 2013, more than half (55.9 percent) of employed black college graduates were “underemployed,” a term used to describe someone in an occupation that does not typically require a four-year college education.
But even before the Great Recession, nearly half of black recent graduates were underemployed, with data showing a 45 percent rate in 2007.
Overall unemployment among African-Americans has consistently been twice that of white workers, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 1983, black workers had a 19.5 percent unemployment rate, while white workers were at 8.4 percent.
The study authors say that the data shows the “disproportionate negative effect of economic downturns” on all young workers, but “ongoing racial discrimination” continues to hurt young black workers both with and without a college degree – although those with degrees have “suffered less.”
“We absolutely aren’t trying to discourage people from going to college,” Schmitt, a senior economist at the Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research, told the National Journal. “College degrees do have value. But what we are trying to show here is that this is not about individuals, or individual effort. There is simply overwhelming evidence that discrimination remains a major feature of the labor market.”
Some majors have fared better than others among black college graduates. But STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) majors still had an average unemployment rate of 10 percent and an underemployment rate of 32 percent between 2010-2012. In contrast, the overall STEM graduates saw only 6 and 7 percent rates.
The study reiterates that racial discrimination is a common problem among U.S. employers.
The authors note that “black men were less likely to receive a call back than equally qualified white men, and black men with no criminal record fared worse than recently incarcerated white men,” referencing a 2009 report on entry-level jobs. “Blacks also placed last in the racial hierarchy, with employers favoring white men, and then Latino men, and only then black men,” write the authors.
“That black college graduates of all ages consistently have higher unemployment rates, higher underemployment rates, and lower wages than their counterparts, even when black students complete STEM majors, reinforces concerns that racial discrimination remains an important factor in contemporary labor markets.”
— Benjamin Fearnow