A college education didn't help blacks and Hispanics in the Great Recession


A college degree was not enough to shield blacks and Hispanics from financial decimation during the Great Recession, according to a new report from the St. Louis Federal Reserve.

Researchers William R. Emmons and Bryan Noeth found that college-educated blacks and Hispanics experienced worse declines in median real net worth between 2007 and 2013 than their non-college-educated minority peers — and saw far more severe declines compared with college-educated whites and Asians (the latter of which actually saw a net increase).

College-educated minorities’ median real incomes also fell much further than their whites and Asians’ during the period.

What’s going on here? First, the authors note, much minorities’ wealth was tied up in their homes. So while, for college-educated whites, average home prices fell just 25%, and for Asians values actually increased 6%, college-educated black and Hispanic home values fell 51 and 45%, respectively.

There are also more profound trends that probably explain why income this, the researchers say. These may have to do with the amount of debt blacks and Hispanics have taken on to finance both their homes and educations. The chart below showing debt ratios by race in 2007, just before the Great Recession, shows astronomical imbalances for Hispanics and especially blacks Americans.

Minorities were also less likely to have obtained advanced degrees, the researchers found, which may have left them at a disadvantage in certain situations.

“Job-market difficulties specific to Hispanic and black college graduates probably played a role, especially over the longer term,” Emmons and Noeth said. “The underlying factors causing racial and ethnic wealth disparities undoubtedly are complex and deeply rooted.

“Further research is needed,” they conclude.

This post has been updated.

Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.

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