Racial disparities in education has been one of the central legal and cultural problems in post-World War II America. A recent study published by The Education Trust reveals yet another example of the problem of African-American underperformance, although the data compiled has a fascinating regional twist.
The Education Trust study focuses on comparative graduation rates for black and white students at the same colleges and universities. Data was collected from 456 colleges and universities throughout the United States. For the study as a whole black students are twenty percent less likely to graduate from college than their white counterparts who attend the same school.
However, the discrepancy in graduation rates is not uniform. At some colleges and universities, African-Americans graduate at the same or nearly the same rate as white students. At other schools, the gap is as wide as thirty-four percent.
Although the Education Trust study does not address the issue of regional variance, it is apparent from the results presented that the gap between white and black graduation rates is much lower in the South than it is in other regions of the country, and that the gap is particularly wide in Wisconsin.
Of the 29 public universities where black student graduate at the same (or greater) frequency as whites, 23 are in the South. (I am defining any state that permitted slavery in 1860 as a “Southern” jurisdiction.) In contrast, of the 25 public universities where the disparity between black and white graduation rates is the greatest, all are outside the South. The latter group includes the Madison, Milwaukee, and Whitewater campuses of the University of Wisconsin.
The same regional pattern can also be seen in private schools. Of the thirteen private schools listed in which black graduation rates equal that of whites, only one is outside the South. In contrast, the twenty-one of the twenty-five private schools with greatest variation are outside the South. Included among the twenty-one are Milwaukee’s Alverno College and Marquette University.
Why African-American college students appear to be playing on a more level playing field in the South is a fascinating question, as is the question of why African-American students at several of Wisconsin’s best universities have trouble obtaining the same graduation rates as their white peers.
The study can be found here.