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The good news is that African-Americans are graduating from college at a historically high rate. According to new research, however, they are choosing majors at the low end of the pay scale, reports.

Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce found that Blacks are over-represented in service fields, such as education and social work. Early childhood education, which pays about $38,000 a year, is one of the most common majors for Black students with a bachelor’s degree.

By contrast, African-Americans represent a small percentage of those earning degrees in the highest-paying majors. They comprise just 8 percent of engineers and 5 percent of computer science majors, who earn a median salary of $65,000.

There are long-term economic consequences for those career choices. According to, there’s a $4 million gap in lifetime earnings between an early childhood educator and a petroleum engineer. Overall, Black college graduates have less savings and disposable income than their White peers. That also means that college educated Blacks have less wealth to pass on to their children.

“The low-paying majors that African Americans are concentrated in are of high social value but low economic value,” said Anthony P. Carnevale, director of the Georgetown Center and co-author of the report, in a statement accompanying the report.

The decision to enter a service-oriented field often stems from Blacks having strong community-based values, states. Those career fields are associated with improving conditions in poor communities. As notes, African-Americans represent just 12 percent of the U.S. population but 20 percent of all community organizers.

Another factor is the type of colleges that African-American’s attend. The report says that most Blacks graduate from two-year colleges or open-admission four-year universities, according to Most of those institutions offer a limited number of majors and lack resources.

To reverse the trend, the researchers advise steering Black students toward STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and business careers, which can incorporate a commitment to community service.



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