What Obama Did Not Say at Hampton University: Education Alone is Not Enough

And first and foremost, your education can fortify you against the uncertainties of a 21st century economy. . . .

Jobs today often require at least a bachelor’s degree, and that degree is even more important in tough times like these. In fact, the unemployment rate for folks who’ve never gone to college is over twice as high as for folks with a college degree or more.

--Remarks by President Barack Obama at Hampton University Commencement, 2010
While it is imperative that the educational attainment of black Americans be increased, education alone is not enough for black economic security. It is true that the more educated are more likely to be employed. But when looks at the issue conscious of race, the story changes.

The figure below shows the annual average unemployment rates for blacks and whites in 2009 by education level. More educated blacks are more likely to be employed than less educated blacks. The same is true for whites.
But when one compares blacks and whites with each other, it is clear that whites have a distinct advantage. Blacks with high school diplomas have unemployment rates that are equivalent to white high school dropouts. Blacks with college degrees only do modestly better at finding work than whites with high school diplomas.

More education is necessary but not sufficient to secure equal opportunity for blacks in the labor market. A strong commitment to ensuring racial justice is required across the nation. As the Tea Party becomes stronger, however, America's already weak commitment to ensuring equal opportunity will get even weaker.

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--Algernon Austin, Ph.D.

Copyright © 2005-2010 by Algernon Austin. All Rights Reserved.