American students who have graduated over the last two years have been fraught with difficult circumstances due to the pandemic and the economy’s rocky landscape. While the job market does appear to be promising for recent Black graduates, the unemployment rate is still significantly higher for the community. According to the job report in March, the unemployment rate for Black men rose to 6.1% in April up from 5.6% since March. However, the unemployment rate for Black women fell from 5.5% to 5% that month.
Considering that data, let’s take a look at who is considered the most educated group, a designation that has repeatedly been assigned to Black women.
Over nearly the past decade-plus, Black women have been overachieving in the classrooms, according to a report by the National Center for Education Statistics that was released in 2020, the most recent year the data was made available.
More good news is on the horizon as U.S. employers expect to hire 31.6% more Black college graduates this year which means there will be a wealth of opportunities for those coming out of school looking to find work in today’s tough market, but students will need to stand out and acquire a multitude of skills to stay competitive. Studies show that Black women, in particular, are doing just that. According to the National Center For Education Statistics (NCES), Between 2018 and 2019, Black women made up 68% of associate’s degrees, 66% of bachelor’s degrees, 71% of master’s degrees, and 65% of doctoral, medical and dental degrees.
The numbers appear to be lower for Black women venturing into the world of computer science and STEM. The group only represents 4.2% of biology sciences, 2.6% of computer sciences, 2.8% of physical sciences, and 2.3% of math and statistics degrees, the National Center for Science and Engineering notes.
While education may be soaring to new heights for Black women across the United States, pay disparities continue to haunt the community and even those with the most impressive qualifications. On average, Black women earn roughly 38% less than white men every year. Black women are more likely to be employed in sectors such as health care, education, and hospitality, all of which often pay lower in terms of wages. Even those who are working in high-paying fields as physicians and surgeons still feel the unfortunate burn of pay inequality, making 54 cents for every dollar paid to their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts. Despite having some of the highest labor force rates, overall Black women earn just 64 cents for every $1 earned by white, non-Hispanic men in 2020.
All in all, while Black women are certainly obtaining more degrees, there’s more work to be done to ensure they can make a fair living post-graduation. The data may be gloomy but the news does show a promising sign that Black women are working diligently to close the wealth gap and build brighter futures for themselves and their families. Some are becoming the first in their family to attend college, beating the immense odds.