Education has been seen as both part of the solution to race and ethnic conflict and part of the problem. On the one hand, upward mobility opportunities in education have been viewed as part of the solution to racial inequality. Getting more minorities through the increasingly meritocratic educational institutions should bring them more economic equality, the argument goes. On the other hand, a variety of racial barriers in education are said to keep minorities from getting through the educational system. In addition to the barriers of prejudice and discrimination, say critics, the educational system is structured in a way that works to the disadvantage of most minority students.
The available data can be used to support both views. On the one hand, the level of educational inequality between whites and minorities has dramatically declined. On the other hand, whites and Asians continue to receive more years of schooling than other minorities. The most recent data comparing the educational attainment of people twenty-five years and older from all race/ethnic groups were collected by the U.S. Bureau of the Census ( 1997) for 1990. The following figures show the percentage of each group that had graduated from high school and college:
This illustrates the high level of education among Asians and whites, relative to other race/ethnic groups.
The American Council on Education (ACE) publishes more recent data on high school completion rates ( Carter and Wilson 1997). In 1995, for example, 82 percent of the white 18- to 24-year-olds completed high school, compared with 77