More blacks attain higher education, but pay lags

A new U.S. Census study shows that far more African-Americans have completed high school and college than was the case 12 years earlier, but their earnings continue to lag behind those of whites with comparable schooling.

About 68 percent of all African-Americans 25 years and older held high school degrees in 1992, compared with only 51 percent in 1980. Although that was a sharp gain, the percentage was still lower than the 81 percent of whites who had high school degrees.


However, among young adults, the black-white high school diploma gap has narrowed significantly. In both 1980 and 1992, about 87 percent of the whites ages 25 to 34 held high school degrees. The rate among blacks in the same age group increased from 75 percent in 1980 to 82 percent last year.

About 12 percent of all blacks 25 and older held bachelor's or higher degrees in 1992, up from 8 percent in 1980. The white rate in 1992 was 22 percent, up from 18 percent.


But the pay gap between educated black men and educated white males remains wide, the study noted. Black men who are high school graduates had median earnings of $20,730 in 1991, compared with $26,790 among white men. Black men with bachelor's or higher degrees had median earnings of $34,340, compared with $43,690 among white men.

Still, it's clear that higher education translates into higher wages, said Claudette E. Bennett, a Census Bureau demographer who wrote the report. The study "clearly demonstrates that education is directly associated with a person's earning power," she said yesterday.

Ms. Bennett said the median earnings of year-round, full-time black adult workers in 1991 who held bachelor's or higher degrees was $30,910, compared with $18,620 among blacks who are high school graduates.

The study, "The Black Population in the United States: March 1992," is based on 57,000 Current Population Survey interviews last year.