Latinos are stalling in the middle tiers of the higher education
system and, as a result, are caught in the middle-wage tier of the labor
WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–#CEWdiversity–Earning college degrees remains a challenge for Latinos: only 21 percent
of Latinos have bachelor’s degrees compared to 32 percent of blacks and
45 percent of whites. Latino Education and Economic Progress: Running
Faster but Still Behind, a new study from the Georgetown
University Center on Education and the Workforce (Georgetown Center),
reveals that lagging college degree attainment has led Latinos to become
stuck in the middle-wage tiers of the labor market.
“The story of Latino families in America honors an intergenerational
striving to achieve full inclusion in our society, and it is their
turn,” said Anthony P. Carnevale, director of the Georgetown Center and
lead author of the report. “With access to the right college and career
guidance, Latinos can keep running faster toward a promising future that
While Latinos are running faster in the education race, the researchers
found that they are falling farther behind whites and blacks in many
crucial college outcomes. Since 1992, Latino postsecondary degree
attainment has only increased from 35 percent to 45 percent, a 10
percentage point increase, compared to a 16 point increase for whites
and a 22 point increase for blacks. Another reality: 65 percent of
Latino students enroll in overcrowded and underfunded community colleges
with low graduation rates, while only 15 percent enroll in one of the
500 most selective colleges that have much higher graduation rates.
Even when Latinos obtain college degrees, they are less likely to work
in college jobs. Latinos comprise 16 percent of workers, but hold 20
percent of jobs that require no more than a high school diploma. Latinos
hold a mere 10 percent of jobs that require at least some postsecondary
education, and they hold only 9 percent of jobs which require a
bachelor’s degree, and 7 percent of jobs requiring a graduate degree.
The researchers found that in general, Latinos have the lowest earnings
compared to whites and blacks. However, when Latinos obtain at least
some postsecondary education they have higher earnings than blacks but
are still behind whites.
Perhaps the most notable finding reveals that country of origin and
English language ability are important sources of wage disparity between
whites and Latinos, but they do not fully explain the white-Latino
earnings gap. Ultimately, these unexplained differences are owed to
differences in access to informal information networks, formal
counseling, and other forms of social capital as well as lingering
Among major demographic groups, Latina women are the lowest earning
group in America. Latina women are typically in low-paying majors, and
even when they are in high-paying majors they have lower earnings than
Latino men. Latina women need to earn two additional degrees in order to
have similar median earnings to white men, and are generally the lowest
earning group in America. However, Latina women with bachelor’s degrees
outearn black women.
The good news is that, with the right support, Latinos are poised for a
surge in educational and economic success. Latino high school graduation
rates have improved the most since the 1990s compared to their white and
black peers. Latino first-time enrollees at two- and four-year colleges
and universities have also increased—by almost 250,000 students—while
white enrollment has actually decreased. Latinos also have the highest
completion rates in certificate programs (60 percent), compared to 47
percent for whites and 37 percent for blacks.
In the workforce, Latinos have made the most progress in getting good
jobs that require some college but no BA. For Latinos with at least a
bachelor’s degree employed in high-wage occupations like those related
to science, technology, mathematics, and engineering (STEM), race-based
earnings gaps essentially vanish. Both whites and Latinos with either a
bachelor’s or graduate degree who work in STEM careers earn $85,000 on
“Latino students often start at a disadvantage—many of their parents
haven’t gone to college,” said Megan L. Fasules, co-author and research
economist at the Georgetown Center. “These students may also have
difficulty navigating the financial aid process, so it’s imperative that
we close the information gap.”
Other key findings include:
Latina women have higher completion rates compared to Latino men at
every level of postsecondary education.
While Latinos with high SAT/ACT test scores have similar rates of
college enrollment as whites, 63 percent of these Latinos complete a
degree or other credential compared to 78 percent of whites with
similar test scores.
Only 34 percent of foreign-born Latinos have some form of
postsecondary education compared to 61 percent of native-born Latinos.
Latinos who speak only English earn $41,000 annually on average, which
is lower than whites’ earnings ($50,000) but higher than blacks’
The full report, Latino Education and Economic Progress: Running
Faster but Still Behind, is available online at cew.georgetown.edu/LatinosWorkforce.
The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce is an
independent, nonprofit research and policy institute that studies the
link between individual goals, education and training curricula, and
career pathways. The Georgetown Center is affiliated with the Georgetown
University McCourt School of Public Policy. For more information, visit: cew.georgetown.edu.
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Research has shown that diversity in the workplace translates into more
productivity, efficiency, competitiveness, and innovation. With
continuing demographic shifts and structural changes in the economy,
embracing diversity is integral to America’s economic competitiveness.
At the Center on Education and the Workforce, we champion efforts to
increase economic and racial justice in higher education and the
workforce. Our commitment stems from a recognition of the disparities in
educational attainment and economic opportunity among racial and ethnic
minorities, low-income Americans, and women. As America commemorates
Hispanic Heritage Month, the Center is proud to celebrate the enduring
legacy of Hispanic and Latino culture in the United States. Learn more
Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce