Elite College Degrees Give Black Graduates Little Advantage In Job Market

Elite College Degrees Give Black Graduates Little Advantage In Job Market
Black women have the highest rate of education among any group in America

AFRICANGLOBE – Throwing another wrench into the belief that higher education is the great equalizer, a new paper suggests that African-American graduates from elite institutions do only as well in getting jobs as white candidates from less-selective institutions.

The study, published in the journal Social Forces, shows that while a degree from an elite university improves all applicants’ chances at finding a well-paid job, the ease with which those jobs are obtained is not equal for Black and white students even when they both graduate from an institution such as Harvard University. A white candidate with a degree from a highly selective university, the paper suggests, receives an employer response for every six résumés he or she submits. A Black candidate receives a response for every eight.

White candidates with degrees from less-selective universities can expect to get a response every 9 résumés, while equally qualified Black candidates need to submit 15.

“Most people would expect that if you could overcome social disadvantages and make it to Harvard against all odds, you’d be pretty set no matter what, but this experiment finds that there are still gaps,” said S. Michael Gaddis, the author of the paper and the Robert Wood Foundation Scholar in Health Policy at the University of Michigan. “Once you get out, you still have to deal with other human beings who have preconceived notions and misguided stereotypes about why you were able to go to this college.”

The paper is based on the results of an experiment Gaddis conducted in which he created more than 1,000 fake job applicants and applied to jobs online. The fictional candidates graduated from either highly selective institutions (Harvard University, Stanford University and Duke University) or less selective state universities (the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the University of California at Riverside and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro). They all had similarly high grade point averages.

Gaddis gave the candidates names that were likely to signal to potential employers what their races were — Black male applicants were named Jalen, Lamar and DaQuan; Black female applicants were named Nia, Ebony and Shanice; white male applicants were named Caleb, Charlie and Ronny; and white female applicants were named Aubrey, Erica and Lesly.

White job applicants with a degree from an elite university had the highest response rate at 18 percent. Black candidates with a degree from an elite university had a response rate of 13 percent, with white candidates holding a degree from a less-selective university following closely at nearly 12 percent. Black applicants with a degree from a less-selective institution had a response rate of less than 7 percent.

Black graduates at elite colleges not only had a response rate similar to that of white graduates from less-selective institutions, but the employers who responded to Black applicants were often offering jobs with less prestige and with salaries that trailed those of white candidates by an average of $3,000. “Education apparently has its limits, because even a Harvard degree cannot make DaQuan as enticing as Charlie to employers,” Gaddis wrote.

While the experiment could not measure the odds of applicants landing a job after getting an initial response, Gaddis said, gaps this large at just the first step of the process demonstrate that “a bachelor’s degree, even one from an elite institution, cannot fully counteract the importance of race in the labor market.” How welcoming a company is to diverse applicants once they meet and interview them means little if they can’t even get in the front door.

“It’s quite possible that these differences are not suggesting that employers are going about trying not to hire Black applicants, but there is something going on this lower level,” Gaddis said. “I hope that maybe this research will make people stop and think about what processes we are using when hiring.”


By: Jake New

7 A.M. – The Wake Up Call


  1. I’m prepared to believe the overall conclusion, but this study had about as much subtlety as a sledgehammer. Did the white male researcher who produced the study actually believe that more than a miniscule number of black male graduates of Harvard, which most often admits sons of the striving black bourgeoisie, would have a name like DaQuan? I mean, really?

  2. I totally agree. As a Harvard graduate (first black female admitted to the Harvard Kennedy School’s doctoral program), I constantly found myself surrounded by white inferiors who are treated better and paid more, which is partly why I left the workforce. When I looked at the backgrounds of the 1,000 engineers at Naval Sea Systems Command-Corona Division in 2004, I discovered that every black engineer had an engineering degree with top grades from top schools, and NO white engineer had similar credentials. Most of the whites were C-students from bad schools, and some did not even have engineering degrees but were classified as engineers, in violation of federal law. I will not sell my talents cheaply, so I keep them to myself, thus depriving the world of my documented genius. So be it.