Are Historically Black Colleges Good for Black Students?

My good friend Roland Fryer has taken as his life’s mission to understand every aspect of the economic life of Blacks in America.

His latest research, co-authored with another good friend, Michael Greenstone, tackles the issues of (a) who attends historically Black colleges, and (b) does it help them or hurt them if they do.

Here are their key conclusions:

1) In the 1970s going to a historically Black institution was associated with higher wages and higher graduation rates than going to a traditionally White institution.

2) By the 1990s, however, the return to graduating from a historically Black institution fell by 20% relative to a traditionally White school, so that in the 1990s there was a premium associated with going to the traditionally White school.

3) The answer to that reversal does not appear to be due to a change in the mix of students attending the two types of schools, or to differences in expenditure per student.

4) Rather, it appears that the traditionally White institutions have evolved to better serve the needs of Black students.

Sounds pretty sensible to me.

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  1. RandyfromCanada says:

    l would think any “black” who graduated from a white old school would do better ..do you not think america still persumes that even old black colleges are not up to white standards ?

    2 basketball players being drafted both 6’10 EXACT same stats one is white one is black , black would go 1st becuase Americans have sterotyped blacks and basketball ……..

    seems simple logic to me nothing outstanding or amazing a grade 10 student could have easily made these assumptions …

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  2. RandyfromCanada says:

    l would think any “black” who graduated from a white old school would do better ..do you not think america still persumes that even old black colleges are not up to white standards ?

    2 basketball players being drafted both 6’10 EXACT same stats one is white one is black , black would go 1st becuase Americans have sterotyped blacks and basketball ……..

    seems simple logic to me nothing outstanding or amazing a grade 10 student could have easily made these assumptions …

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  3. mee23 says:

    I’ve noticed that when people study how women’s colleges impact women, they tend to do career-specific research. After all, in an increasing number of fields, wages just aren’t an accurate gauge of how successful that individual is.

    I know it’s heretical for an economist to even think that thought, but it’s especially true if you’re dealing with a historically subjugated group. In fields like science and technology, studying cite counts and the school where an individual received tenure is a far better indicator of career success than wages for women. Why? Because women Ph.D.s in science and technology would far rather take a pay cut to work in academia, which has far less discrimination and far better work/life balance. Women who can’t tenure-track job go into industry R&D — where wages are higher. Under the rubric your friends depend on, they’d mistake the less successful women for the more successful women, when those in the field know it’s the other way around.

    Similarly, in law the starting wage among Biglaw firms is the exact same within a market. Although bonuses may vary, they don’t necessarily vary according to firm prestige. Consequently, wages and bonuses don’t necessarily reflect success. Determining whether someone’s more successful than another has to do with whether or not you get on law review, which law review you get on to, the relative prestige of the firm(s) you work for, and/or the relative prestige of your judicial clerkship. Just as with women in science and technology, judging success strictly on wages just doesn’t make sense given the field’s definition of success.

    I wonder if taking a similar career-specific approach may be a far better indicator of HBCU’s impact than something as generalized as wages.

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  4. mee23 says:

    I’ve noticed that when people study how women’s colleges impact women, they tend to do career-specific research. After all, in an increasing number of fields, wages just aren’t an accurate gauge of how successful that individual is.

    I know it’s heretical for an economist to even think that thought, but it’s especially true if you’re dealing with a historically subjugated group. In fields like science and technology, studying cite counts and the school where an individual received tenure is a far better indicator of career success than wages for women. Why? Because women Ph.D.s in science and technology would far rather take a pay cut to work in academia, which has far less discrimination and far better work/life balance. Women who can’t tenure-track job go into industry R&D — where wages are higher. Under the rubric your friends depend on, they’d mistake the less successful women for the more successful women, when those in the field know it’s the other way around.

    Similarly, in law the starting wage among Biglaw firms is the exact same within a market. Although bonuses may vary, they don’t necessarily vary according to firm prestige. Consequently, wages and bonuses don’t necessarily reflect success. Determining whether someone’s more successful than another has to do with whether or not you get on law review, which law review you get on to, the relative prestige of the firm(s) you work for, and/or the relative prestige of your judicial clerkship. Just as with women in science and technology, judging success strictly on wages just doesn’t make sense given the field’s definition of success.

    I wonder if taking a similar career-specific approach may be a far better indicator of HBCU’s impact than something as generalized as wages.

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  5. Justin Ross says:

    mee23: “I know it’s heretical for an economist to even think that (wages just aren’t an accurate gauge of how successful that individual is)”

    Incorrect. Economists recognize universally that wages aren’t the whole story, it is just usually the only good data available to do any testing with. Success is innately subjective and we wish we had measures of peoples utility, but it just isn’t feasible.

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  6. Justin Ross says:

    mee23: “I know it’s heretical for an economist to even think that (wages just aren’t an accurate gauge of how successful that individual is)”

    Incorrect. Economists recognize universally that wages aren’t the whole story, it is just usually the only good data available to do any testing with. Success is innately subjective and we wish we had measures of peoples utility, but it just isn’t feasible.

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  7. bob_calder says:

    OMG this is so racially charged. I would point out that the situation at FAMU may or may not be common in traditionally black universities but they had a high number of people teaching out of field.

    I really think what is important here is the accreditation situation in virtually all colleges. This goes hand in hand with discussions about grade inflation. Traditionally black schools may just be visible because they happen to be economically vulnerable today.

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  8. bob_calder says:

    OMG this is so racially charged. I would point out that the situation at FAMU may or may not be common in traditionally black universities but they had a high number of people teaching out of field.

    I really think what is important here is the accreditation situation in virtually all colleges. This goes hand in hand with discussions about grade inflation. Traditionally black schools may just be visible because they happen to be economically vulnerable today.

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