New Study: More Education May Not Mean Upward Mobility For Black Workers

Female student in graduation cap and gown
Leslie Taylor-Grover
September 25, 2023

Education is typically considered a key factor in increasing income, promotion potential, and upward mobility. However, a new study suggests that the payoff may not be the same for Black workers.

A new report by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) suggests that race-based disparities among workers have gotten worse over the decades in spite of Black workers' educational attainment.

While experts have touted education as a major factor in creating a path to upward mobility, new data from NBER suggests that education has not made a difference for Black workers.

The study examined Census data between 1980 and 2019. It compared wages across the education levels of workers. In the past two decades, the number of Black workers with college degrees has doubled, yet the income gains for those workers are less than those of white workers.

Researchers say this wage inequality is a result of racial occupational segregation within the labor market, which has increased over the past two decades despite rising educational levels among Black workers.

Researchers point out that the study doesn’t mean education doesn’t matter. Instead, they suggest that racism’s effects can diminish the benefits of education. Read the entire report here.