High-School Graduation Rates for Blacks Up, Census Finds

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The number of blacks graduating from high school and college increased during the 1980's, according to a new Census Bureau report, although the gap between the number of blacks and whites who attend college did not close.

The study of the black population in the United States was based on information gathered in 1989 and 1990 and examined income levels, educational attainment, poverty rates, and family composition.

The educational attainment of people between the ages of 35 and 44 was studied, the report said, because they were the age group most likely to reflect the substantial gains in education made by blacks since the 1960's and were also more likely to have completed their educations.

The number of black men in that age group who had completed four years of high school or more increased by 26.8 percent, from 62.2 percent in 1980 to 78.9 percent in 1990. Black women showed similar gains, with an increase of 28.5 percent in high-school completion.

The most dramatic gains, however, were in the number of blacks who had graduated from college.

The proportion of black men who had completed four or more years of college more than doubled, from 7.3 percent in 1980 to 16.7 percent in 1990. The increase among black women from 8.6 percent in 1980 to 14.5 percent in 1990--was 68.6 percent.

Despite the gains made by blacks, the gap in college-completion rates between whites and blacks did not narrow during the decade. In 1980, 8 percent of blacks between the ages of 35 and 44 had completed four or more years of college, while 22 percent of whites had done so. Ten years later, 15.5 percent of blacks and 28.5 percent of whites had graduated.

The proportion of blacks between the ages of 18 and 24 who had graduated from high school rose between 1980 and 1988, the study found.

But black men in that age group lagged behind black women in both the proportion who had graduated from high school and who were enrolled in college.

There were also fewer black men than black women attending college in 1988. Twenty-five percent of black men were enrolled in college, compared with 30 percent of black women. In 1970 and 1980, there was no statistical difference in the college-going rates of black men and women.

Earnings Examined

Black men continue to earn only about 75 percent of what white men earn, regardless of whether they have a high-school or a college education, the study found. But the earnings gap between black and white women has almost closed: Black women earn 98 percent of the median earnings of white women.

However, the report cautioned that black women generally work longer hours and more weeks than whites and have been in the labor force longer than white women.

The study also found that the median earnings for black men in 1989 ($15,320) had not changed appreciably from their 1979 levels, while earnings for white men ($22,160) fell 5 percent, and earnings for both black and white women ($11,520 and $11,720, respectively) increased.

Black families were 31/2 times as likely to be poor as white families-a ratio that the study found had not changed much since 1969. More than one-third of black families with children were poor in 1989.

That year, 43.2 percent of all black children were poor, compared with 14.1 percent of all white children.

Families headed by women were most likely to be poor, as were children who lived in such households.

In 1989, 46.5 percent of the black families headed by women were poor, while 11.8 percent of married-couple families and 24.7 percent of families headed by single men were poor.

Among black children living in families headed by women, 53.9 percent were poor in 1989, the study found.

For both blacks and whites, the proportion of families headed by married couples has declined since 1980. The decline, however, has been sharpest for blacks: In 1990, married-couple families accounted for 50.2 percent of black families and 83 percent of white families, while in 1980 they made up 55.5 percent of black families and 85.7 percent of white families.

At the same time, the proportion of families headed by women increased. Between 1980 and 1990, the proportion of all black families maintained by a single woman rose from 40.3 percent to 43.8 percent, the study found. However, the increase was slower than during the decade from 1970 to 1980, when the proportion increased from 28 percent to 40.3 percent.

Similarly, the percentage of children under age 18 who were living in one-parent families increased for beth whites and blacks. In 1980, 43.9 percent of black children lived with their mother only; by 1990, the proportion had increased to 51.2 percent. The corresponding numbers for whites were 13.5 percent and 16.2 percent.

Vol. 11, Issue 05, Page 5

Published in Print: October 2, 1991, as High-School Graduation Rates for Blacks Up, Census Finds
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