Equity & Diversity

Immigrant Blacks’ Numbers Studied

By Alyson Klein — February 12, 2007 1 min read
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Black students whose families recently immigrated to the United States make up a disproportionate share of black freshmen at selective colleges, compared with the numbers of their age group in the larger U.S. black population, according to a study by researchers at Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania.

The study found that blacks who themselves or whose parents immigrated to the United States made up 27 percent of black freshmen at 28 top colleges in the 1999-2000 academic year. But at that time, immigrant or second-generation blacks constituted only 13 percent of all black 18- and 19-year-olds in the United States.

Further information on ordering the report, “Black Immigrants and Black Natives Attending Selective Colleges and Universities in the United States,” is available from the American Journal of Education.

Among the 28 colleges studied were four Ivy League universities--Columbia, Princeton, Penn, and Yale--where immigrant or second-generation blacks made up 40.6 percent of all black freshmen.

The study, “Black Immigrants and Black Natives Attending Selective Colleges and Universities in the United States,” is in the February issue of the American Journal of Education.

The findings could help fuel the debate over whether affirmative action programs, which were established in large part to help African-Americans overcome the vestiges of slavery and segregation, should also be used for the broader aim of creating more racially diverse learning environments.

Douglas S. Massey, a Princeton sociology professor and one of the authors of the report, said colleges might not necessarily be consciously choosing to admit immigrant or second-generation black students for the sake of diversity. He said admissions officers might simply look at applicants’ race, without paying much attention to their family backgrounds.

“I don’t think there was a place on the form for where your parents were born,” Mr. Massey said.

The study indicates that blacks from immigrant families who attend selective colleges come from somewhat more advantaged backgrounds than black students whose families have lived in the United States for generations. More than 70 percent of black immigrant students reported that their fathers hold college degrees, compared with just over 55 percent of U.S.-native blacks and more than 85 percent of whites.

A version of this article appeared in the February 14, 2007 edition of Education Week


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