No Black women are not the “most educated” group in the US

I don’t know where this started, but it doesn’t seem to be stopping. The following headlines are all completely factually wrong, and the organizations that published them should correct them right away:

The Root: Black Women Now the Most Educated Group in US

Upworthy: Black women are now America’s most educated group

SalonBlack women are now the most educated group in the United States

GoodBlack Women Are Now The Most Educated Group In The U.S.

And then the video, by ATTN:, on Facebook, with 6 million views so far. I won’t embed the video here, but it includes these images, with completely wrong facts:

bweduc1

bweduc2

What’s true is that Black women, in the 2009-2010 academic year, received a higher percentage of degrees within their race/ethnic group than did women in any other major group. So, for example, of all the MA degrees awarded to Black students, Black women got 71% of them. In comparison, White women only got 62% of all White MA degrees. Here is the chart, from the data that everyone linked to (which is not new data, by the way, and has nothing to do with 2015):

bwdegchart

For Black women to be the “most educated group,” they would have to have more degrees per person than other groups. In fact, although a greater percentage of Black women have degrees than Black men do, they have less education on average than White women, White men, Asian/Pacific Islander women, and Asian/Pacific Islander men.

Here are the percentages of each group that holds a BA degree or higher (ages 25-54), according to the 2010-2014 American Community Survey, with Black women highlighted:

bwdegchartBA

23% of Black women ages 25-54 have BA degrees or more education, compared with 38% of White women. This does not mean Black women are worse (or that White women are better). It’s just the actual fact. Here are the percentages for PhD degrees:

bwdegchartPhDJPG

Just over half of 1% of Black women have PhDs, compared with just over 1% of White women – and almost 3% of Asian/PI women. White women are almost twice as likely to have a PhD and Black women, Asian/PI women are more than 5-times as likely.

Racism is racism, inequality is inequality, facts are facts. Saying this doesn’t make me racist or not racist, and it doesn’t change the situation of Black women, who are absolutely undervalued in America in all kinds of ways (and one of those ways is that they don’t have the same educational opportunities as other groups). There are some facts in these stories that are true, too. And of course, why Black women (and women in general) are getting more degrees than men are is an important question. But please don’t think it’s my responsibility to research and present all this information correctly before it’s appropriate for me to point out the obvious inaccuracy here. You don’t need this meme to do the good you’re trying to do by sharing these stories.

Our current information economy rewards speed and clickability. Journalists who know what they’re doing are more expensive and slower. Making good graphics and funny GIFs is a good skill, but it’s a different skill than interpreting and presenting information. We can each help a little by pausing before we share. And those of us with the skills and training to track these things down should all pitch in and do some debunking once in a while. For academics, there is little extra reward in this (as evidenced by my most recent, sup-par departmental “merit” review), beyond the rewards we already get for our cushy jobs, but it should be part of our mission.

16 Comments

Filed under In the news

16 responses to “No Black women are not the “most educated” group in the US

  1. Quit good to point out that “facts are facts. “

    Like

  2. krash

    What does this mean?
    “By both race and gender, a higher percentage of black women (9.7 percent) are enrolled in college than any other group, topping Asian women (8.7 percent), white women (7.1 percent) and white men (6.1 percent)”

    Like

    • I don’t know. At what age and education level is it referring to? Among high school graduates ages 17-24 (who haven’t graduated college), I get these attendance rates from the same ACS data:
      Asian/PI: 80%
      White: 61%
      Black: 53%
      Hispanic: 52%
      Am Ind: 42%

      Like

  3. Facts. As a black woman, I’d love for the claims to be true. However, I was skeptical when I read the articles claiming black women to be the most educated group.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Msmith

      You are so unwise to let a white man tell you “don’t believe the facts.” This is historically what they do disparage and attenpt to downgrade our accomplishments. Due to your obvious poor self esteem and lack of self worth. You have consumed the Kool-aid and thanked your lily white master for showing you the light. I don’t blame him but you are seriously in need of an education. Please attend a college any college and learn the basic rule everyone knows “you can not and should not believe everything
      you read. Do your own investigation.

      Like

      • “Lily white” is going a little far, don’t you think?

        Like

      • Lily White

        Don’t worry, that’s why there’s data, studies, and facts to back it up. You don’t have to take the word of just anybody, but it is wise to take the word of the people who have studied, researched, and parsed this information. Or you can stick your head in the sand, ignore reality, and go “nyah nyah, not listening, blah, blah, racism, blah the facts don’t fit my narrative so they must be wrong”

        Like

  4. MyDegreesHaveDegrees

    “By both race and gender, a higher percentage of black women (9.7 percent) are enrolled in college than any other group, topping Asian women (8.7 percent), white women (7.1 percent) and white men (6.1 percent)”

    Basically, out of the TOTAL POPULATION, we (Black Women) constitute the highest percentage of persons enrolled in college. That is, 9.7/100 percent of Black women are attending college (as compared to 6.1/100 percent of White males). Despite the confusing (and catchy headline), it’s not that difficult to understand…Of course, that might be because I’m a Black Woman.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Thanks. There is no reason to include children and old people in the denominator of that rate though, so 9.7% is not a very meaningful number. The age breakdown in the chart above shows what matters more: high rates at older ages, low rates at younger ages. I think that’s what we need to understand in order to respond effectively.

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  6. Pingback: The fathers behind teen births (or, statistical memes and motivated blind trust) | Family Inequality

  7. Pingback: Black women really do have high college enrollment rates (at age 25+) | Family Inequality

  8. Msmith

    You have choosen to ignore data from the Department of education. Wow additionally you have changed refused to accurately report the proper years from which the data was derived from. So much for accurate resorting

    Like

  9. Rox

    You just can’t state numbers without looking at it through the population size. Black women only make up 6 or 7 percent of the total population but are almost 25 percent more likely to have a BA or BS degree. Then lets look at PhD’s. Half of one percent is a good start for black women especially when 40 years plus, they werent allowed to have any degree. While white women make up over 30 percent of the population, barely are overrepresented themselves compared to their population size in Ba or BS degress and forget it with PhD’s, not even a blimp. But had at least a 50 year head start. Facts without all the facts are not facts.

    Then lets consider white population decline once the large sector of the baby boomers die off. Black America continue to educate yourself, because we will no longer be the minority.

    Like

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