African-Americans over-represented among low-paying college majors

Discussion in 'Career, Work, Finances and Education' started by OckyDub, Oct 30, 2017.

  1. OckyDub

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    African-Americans over-represented among low-paying college majors

    More African-Americans are going to college than ever before. But according to new research from the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University, African-American college students are more likely to pursue majors that lead to low-paying jobs, setting up many for future debt and underemployment. And over time these occupational choices contribute to the wealth and opportunity gap between whites and blacks that spans generations.

    “Basically, African-Americans have been going to the right church but sitting in the wrong pew,” director Anthony Carnevale said. “In a way they are using education to climb the social and economic ladder, but they’re being steered toward majors that will make them low-earners.”

    African-Americans make up only a small percentage of some of the highest-paying of majors, including those in STEM and business. They’re only 8 percent of engineering, 7 percent of mathematics and 5 percent of computer science majors. Worse, Carnevale said even those who do major in high-paying fields, typically choose the lowest paying major within them. For example, the majority of black women in STEM typically study biology, the lowest-paying of the science discipline. Among engineers, most black men study civil engineering, the lowest-paying in that sector.

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    African-American college students tend to have majors in public service which are also some of the country’s lowest-paying. As this chart shows, African-Americans are over-represented in majors that are some of the lowest paying. Image from Center on Education and the Workforce

    In contrast, black college students are over-represented in service-oriented fields: humanities, education and social work (shown in the chart below). One of the lowest-paying majors common among African-Americans with a bachelor’s degree is early childhood education and the median earnings is only $38,000 annually compared to $65,000 for computer science (the lowest among high-paying majors for African-Americans). Carnivale says this is largely because American society overall “does not value service-oriented occupations.”

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    As this chart shows, African-Americans are over-represented in majors that are some of the lowest paying. Image from Center on Education and the Workforce

    Another reason for the disparity is merely personal choice. Many service-oriented majors lead to careers that are vital to political and social movements in poor, minority communities around the country. And the study indicates that African-Americans who have strong community-based values enter into college majors that reflect those values. Despite comprising just 12 percent of the population, African-Americans are 20 percent of all community organizers.

    The center also points out that the majority of college-educated African-Americans earn their degrees from two-year institutions or open-admission four-year colleges and universities. Seventy percent of African-Americans who graduate from college attended an open-admission school. With a few exceptions, these institutions not only have limited majors and course offerings, but also lack personnel and academic resources for consistent mentorship. Often, the result is a black student being what Carnevale calls “risk adverse,” or shying away from the unfamiliar.

    Over time, low-paying majors affect economic prosperity. There’s a $4 million difference in earnings between a four-year degree in early childhood education and petroleum engineering over an entire career. Black students end up with less savings and disposable income paying for educations that landed them low-paying jobs in the first place. It stifles the African-American middle class and contributes to the country’s economic inequality.

    So what’s the solution? The Center on Education and the Workforce recommends aggressive counseling of minority students early on, encouraging young African-Americans to develop careers in tech, business and STEM that incorporate elements of community service. Carnevale points out that a black business executive could still be a community advocate by providing jobs and small business loans.

    “We don’t want to say education is a bad thing for African-Americans because it’s not,” Carnevale says. “On the other hand, to the extent that choices are limited and experience is limited, the pursuit of their passion needs to be informed. Chasing your dreams shouldn’t turn into a nightmare.”
     
  2. African King

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    I noticed this trend as a college student amongst minority students. Not enough were doing STEM like myself and those who began as STEM majors changed so quickly before the end of sophomore year at the latest.

    I did biochemistry which has earning potential but that was not my end goal. I always knew I had an interest in health care and while having some bumps in the road, I am happy to say that I am back on track to my goals.
     
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  3. Rico

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    African and Caribbean blacks tend to be better represented in the sciences that African-Americans. It’s not always racism, a lot of it is pathological elements in black American culture. This has been known for awhile.

    For example, there was a study in Ohio commissioned by black parents who were alleging racism in schools. They hired a Nigerian social scientist to study their children and they got pissed when his findings essentially showed the African American kids were lazy.
    Why Are Black Students Lagging?

    Even now I still see it when I go back to Ohio. Somalians, Ethiopians, Nigerians, Eritreans all make sure their kids stay in the library. Then the African-Americans get mad when the non-American blacks don’t want to have anything to do with them.
     
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  4. mojoreece

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    I personally think this is one of the biggest reasons. A lot of us want to go back and help the community. Unfortunately the way capitalism is set up, doing that type of work does not pay well.

    Also having a mentor to give you career advice goes a long way.
     
  5. acessential

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    I think that's an inaccurate assessment. I believe if you look at the demographics of Haitian-American, Jamaican-American, and other Caribbean immigrants, you will see trends that are similar to immigrants from Latin America. They concentrate in poorer neighborhoods and deal with all of the issues associated with poverty. They come here for economic opportunity.

    On the other hand, yes, African born immigrants are on average more economically succesful than African-Americans. But that's mostly due to our immigration policy that favors educated, economically stable immigrants. It's the same reason why Asians are considered "the model minority." It's because many of them came with an educated background. An issue with that is, it leaves out Vietnamese, Laotians, Cambodians and Hmongs who came mostly as refugees and struggle with poverty and lack of education like a lot of black and Latino folks do. But that's a different story.

    TLDR: It's not culture. It's our immigration policy.
     
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  6. acessential

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    I think that's the biggest takeway. I think it would be better for us to reevaluate why service oriented jobs aren't as valued despite them being crucial to economic and societal success. We always talk about how important teachers are, but education is a low paying field. That's not an individual shortcoming. That's a societal problem.

    The article annoys me because it's blaming black folks for inequality while not looking at how the system is unfair to begin with.
     
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  7. Dante

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    From my college experience, I always noticed people majoring in Social, Criminal Justice, Human Services and Health-related majors, simply with the idea that they are going to automatically make "a lot" of money. Mostly non-Black students automatically jump on STEM-related, Engineering and Medicine (i.e. Johns Hopkins University, which whose student enrollment is 8%-15% Black). And right out of college, the salary for entry-level positions generally are around $25,000 a year. And that leads people into getting more than one degree (and more student loan debt) in hopes that the salary will double. Depending on the career field and hired opportunity, there's no guarantee that it will.

    I'm not so sure that the emphasis/reflection should be on what college majors Black students are choosing, but how the economy is salary shitting on college graduates, particularly Blacks. The whole point of a college degree, as a credential, is to 1. Affirm a career and 2. Make a decent (livable) salary. We need answers!
     
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  8. BlackguyExecutive

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    Studies like these are faulty because it does a poor job of differentiating black Americans, i.e., African Americans vs First or Second Generation Africans vs Caribbean and others. Secondly, this study doesn't take into account the disparities in the overall educational system from Gen ED to Higher ED. With that being said, I bet if they polled first or second generation Africans-Americans they would see an overrepresentation of STEM degrees. Literally every first generation African I know is a Medical Doctor or Engineer.

    I will only talk about Black Elites for purposes of this discussion, meaning blacks whose parents graduated from college, blacks who are also college-bound, and black who have access to enough capital (grades, scholarships, loans, and independent wealth) to actually attend college, this is a select group who are likely aware of this disparity in job prospects.

    For example, would you want to be a black person in college pursuing computer engineering and be the only one in your department? All of the STEM Fields outside of Medicine and Pharmacy don't have very credible programs for Black Americans. Thankfully there are HBCU doing the work on the Medicine and Pharmacy front but they are far and few between. They are also ranked significantly lower than their predominately white counterparts which also directly correlates to job prospects and earning potential. I went through 7 years of college earning BA and MA and was taught by three teachers of color and one was an Arab. That plays a role in where people end up. I bet you schools of Nursing, Education, and Social Work have black professors. Schools of Engineering and Technology don't...

    We also have to remember that for nearly 150 years, blacks were barred from STEM fields, legal fields, and other high wage employment opportunities. Black Americans still have a harder time accessing education despite Black Women leading the nation in earning degrees. Lastly, I think we also have a values problem, we devalue teachers, lower level healthcare workers and caretakers, social workers and that directly leads to poor outcomes and income disparities.
     
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  9. NikR

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    I had 0 black profs in undergrad. 0 in med school. So far, none in business school. I'm also the only black doc in my current department- in DC!

    Regarding college majors, well, people will follow along the path of least resistance. And sometimes that resistance is the guidance counsellor or cousin who is supposed to be encouraging you. It takes a special person to say, "against all odds, against all barriers, I'm gonna do/be xyz." That being said, Caribbean- and African-diaspora blacks are definitely treated differently than our native-born counterparts. My family is from the Islands. My parents immigrated in order to keep the extended family together; they didn't immigrate because they were well-placed economically or educationally. But there was something that made my sister and I different from our peers. Maybe it was that my parents were more strict with us growing up-I knew they were. I would have to finish all my homework at the library before reading any comics. But again, look at what I said..."parents" as in both of them were around consistently. I think many immigrant families are still structured in the traditional nuclear framework and this intrinsically adds support to children being raised. I think this fact made me stand out, and when teachers noticed I was doing pretty well, they decided not to get in my way; either that or face the wrath of some crazy Caribbean lady and her loud dialect lol.

    Add this to the fact that schools implicitly expected me to succeed where my 'native' Black peers hadn't (kind of like how Asians are expected to succeed as a 'model minority'). Expectations are important- if teachers set high, but attainable goals, kids will rise to the occasion. As James Fallows once said, "is it merely a coincidence that so many immigrants, whose potential has not been ascertained, rise as if they do not know where they are supposed to stop?".

    Now that we know the problem exists, what is the solution? I say, Cypher Avenue, the site, the connections, the platform and bundle of social capital that @Nick Delmacy and @Ockydub have knit together, is a solution. You show younger kids (or dare I say it, each others' kids) how you got from a to b. You can, when more established, give them advice and internships. This is how you increase black representation in your field. We know what the world's rules are; we should re-write them for ourselves.
     
    #9 NikR, Nov 1, 2017
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2017
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  10. African King

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    Damn y'all went in!
     
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