Economic Snapshot | Education

Among college-educated, African Americans hardest hit by unemployment

Snapshot for April 22, 2009

by Algernon Austin 

Fifteen months into a deep recession, college-educated white workers still had a relatively low unemployment rate of 3.8% in March of this year. The same could not be said for African Americans with four-year degrees. The March 2009 unemployment rate for college-educated blacks was 7.2%–almost twice as high as the white rate–and up 4.5 percentage points from March 2007, before the start of the current recession (see chart). Hispanics and Asian Americans with college degrees were in between, both with March 2009 unemployment rates of 5%.


Some argue that the problem of joblessness among African Americans can be solved by education alone, but at every education level the unemployment rate for blacks exceeds that of whites. The disparities among the college-educated and other evidence strongly suggest that even if the black educational attainment distribution was exactly the same as the white distribution, blacks would still have a higher unemployment rate than whites. Without a renewed commitment to anti-discrimination in employment and job creation in black communities, high rates of black joblessness will likely persist.1

1. See Algernon Austin, “Understanding the black jobs crisis,” The Daily Voice, August 1, 2008.; and Algernon Austin, “Why is the black male employment rate so low?” Focus, Vol. 36, No. 4, 2008: 13(4),
, for a more detailed discussion of this issue.