Educational Attainment, Population Increase and the Progress of African Americans

Article excerpt


By the end of the first decade of the 21st century, African Americans have come from extremely difficult experiences of enslavement and Jim Crow to make remarkable progress in the economic, social and political life of the United States. Although the data continue to show that relative to other racial/ethnic groups a higher percentage of African Americans continue to live in poverty, a strong majority of them are not in poverty anymore (Kaba, 2008a).

The main factor behind this progress of the African American population is higher education attainment. This is especially the case with young African Americans, who experience less discrimination and prejudice compared with their parents, grandparents and great grandparents before them. Even a significant number of relatively older African Americans who were once beaten and shouted at for attempting to attend schools are now going to college to study for various types of academic degrees.

There is a concern, however, that compared with the Asian and Hispanic populations, proportionally, the African American population is not growing or increasing as fast. Among the factors contributing to this slow growth of the African American population is that unlike in Africa, in recent years the average African American female in the United States has been going for years at a time not meeting the officially recommended total fertility rate (average number of children born per woman) of 2.1 children per woman, and also relatively high abortion rates for African American females when compared with women in other racial groups in the United States. These trends may have both economic and political implications for the African American population in the years and decades to come.

This paper examines statistics showing the progress of African Americans in higher education enrollments and degree attainment. The paper goes on to present statistics that illustrate that the African American population is not growing as fast or rapidly, and the factors responsible for this trend. Finally, the paper discusses the economic and political implications for this slow growth of the African American population.

Higher Education Enrollments and Degree Attainment of African Americans

The higher education enrollment rates of African Americans have increased by over 2.2 million students from 1970 to 2007. In 1970, there were 378,000 African Americans enrolled in higher education institutions in the United States (Franklin and Moss, 1994, p.9). According to the U.S Census Bureau, as of October 2007, of the 17.956 million students enrolled in colleges and universities in the U.S., African American (or in combination with another race) accounted for 2.630 million (14.65%). Of those 2.630 million African Americans, 1.553 million (59%, but 8.65% of all students) were African American females. (1) In 2007, apart from Asian males and Asian females, proportionally, more African American females were enrolled in college than Whites and Hispanics. For example, in 2007, out of 13,977,000 Asians (or in combination with another race) aged 3 and above, 1,204,000 (8.6%) were enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities: 592,000 (8.8%) out of 6,706,000 for males and 612,000 (8.4%) out of 7,271,000 for females.

For African Americans (or in combination with another race), it was 2,630,000 (7%) out of 37,323,000; 1,077,000 (6.2%) out of 17,348,000 for males and 1,553,000 (7.8%) out of 19,975,000 for females. For whites (or in combination with another race), it was 14,114,000 (6.1%) out of 233,241,000; 6,169,000 (5.4%) out of 115,137,000 for males and 7,945,000 (6.7%) out of 118,104,000 for females. For Hispanics (of any race), it was 2,172,000 (5.1%) out of 42,715,000; 880,000 (4%) out of 21,952,000 for males and 1,292,000 (6.2%) out of 20,763,000 for females. (2)

Degree Attainment

By 2008, the total number of African Americans with college or university degrees is relatively high. …