Black Recent Grads Hardest Hit by the Great Recession

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Alan Barber, (202) 293-5380 x115

Black Recent Grads Hardest Hit by the Great Recession

WASHINGTON - As millions of new graduates prepare to enter the workforce, a new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) demonstrates that the Great Recession has been hard on recent graduates, especially black recent college graduates. The authors write that while young black workers with college degrees have fared better than their less-educated peers, they have a higher unemployment rate and are more likely to find themselves in a job that does not require a degree than other recent college graduates.

The report, “A College Degree is no Guarantee,” examines labor-market outcomes for black recent college graduates (ages 22 to 27) from as far back as 1970 through the most recent available data.  The main findings include:

  • In 2013, 12.4 percent of black college graduates between the ages of 22 and 27 were unemployed. For all college graduates in the same age range, the unemployment rate was 5.6 percent.
  • Between 2007 (immediately before the Great Recession) and 2013, the unemployment rate for black recent college graduates nearly tripled (up 7.8 percentage points from 4.6 percent in 2007).
  • In 2013, more than half (55.9 percent) of employed black recent college graduates were “underemployed” –defined as working in an occupation that typically does not require a four-year college degree. Even before the Great Recession, almost half of black recent graduates were underemployed (45.0 percent in 2007).
  • Black recent college graduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors have fared somewhat better, but still suffer from high unemployment and underemployment rates. For example, for the years 2010 to 2012, among black recent graduates with degrees in engineering, the average unemployment rate was 10 percent and the underemployment rate was 32 percent.

“These outcomes reflect the strong negative effect of economic downturns on young workers in general, but, in part, these results also  reflect ongoing racial discrimination in the labor market,” said Janelle Jones, an author of the report and a research associate at CEPR. “Earning a college degree blunts the effects of the economic downturn and racial discrimination, , but college is not a guarantee against either set of challenges for young black workers.”

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The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) was established in 1999 to promote democratic debate on the most important economic and social issues that affect people's lives. In order for citizens to effectively exercise their voices in a democracy, they should be informed about the problems and choices that they face. CEPR is committed to presenting issues in an accurate and understandable manner, so that the public is better prepared to choose among the various policy options.

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