Blacks Still Value Education More Than Whites

A New Lecture: “Anti-Black Discrimination in the Age of Obama” by Dr. Algernon Austin

The simplistic idea that impoverished African Americans have only themselves to blame for their poverty, due to their poor cultural values—a notion advanced by many, including black public figures such as Bill Cosby—is believable only if a blind eye is turned to those inconvenient things social scientists like to call “facts.” Algernon Austin soundly refutes the “culture of poverty” argument by paying careful attention to marco-economic data about long-term poverty trends and sociological case studies about persistent discrimination. In other words, unlike the glib punditry, Austin actually looks at the “facts.”
--Dr. Andrew Hartman, professor and audience member, Illinois State University

Contact Dr. Austin to arrange a speaking engagement.

There it is again. I was reading a new Pew Social Trends survey [PDF] on the graying of the work force, and once again researchers have found evidence that blacks value education more than whites. The researchers state, "Blacks (83%) and Hispanics (85%) also are more likely than whites (69%) to say a college degree is a necessity" to get ahead in life.

As I've written before, and contrary to the popular perception, blacks value education more than whites. In a piece written for the Daily Voice last year, I wrote:
the Monitoring the Future survey found that 74 percent of black high school seniors believed that getting good grades was of "great" or "very great importance," but only 41 percent of white seniors felt as strongly. Half of black seniors reported that knowing a lot about intellectual matters was of "great" or "very great importance," but only one-fifth of white seniors felt the same.

Other and more recent surveys have had similar results. A 2006 survey by Public Agenda found that black students were more likely than white students to believe that "increasing math and science education would improve high school." The Higher Education Research Institute's 2006 survey of college freshmen found that the majority-black students at historically black colleges were more likely to aspire to obtain a Ph.D. than college freshmen generally.

Different organizations asking different questions of different black students at different times have all come to the same conclusion: black students value education.
As I also mentioned in that piece, the problem facing blacks is social and economic disadvantage--at least from birth--which makes it difficult for them to transform their values into achievement.

Some would say that statements of values do not matter what matters is action. Well, the behavior of blacks supports my position also. In the Black-White Test-Score Gap, Christopher Jencks and Meredith Phillips find that "when we compare blacks and whites with the same twelfth grade test scores, blacks are more likely than whites to complete college." They add in a footnote, "Similar results can be found in samples dating back to the early 1960s, so they are not attributable to affirmative action." Whites with similar academic abilities as blacks obtain less education than blacks do.

Jencks and Phillips note that socioeconomic disadvantage from birth onward are factors in the, on average, lower educational attainment and achievement of blacks. When Patrick Mason (in "Intergenerational Mobility and Interracial Inequality: The Return to Family Values," Industrial Relations 46: 1: 71) statistically compares blacks and whites of equivalent class backgrounds, he finds that black women obtain 3 percent more years of education than white men and black men obtain 6 percent more. This finding means that if one could magically give whites the socioeconomic profile of blacks, at least initially, we would predict that whites would, on average, be less educated than are blacks today.

--Algernon Austin, Ph.D.

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