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Choice of major so critical for African Americans

African Americans make less, and in some cases much less, than their white and Asian counterparts, no matter what their undergraduate major. WASHINGTON (PRNewswire-USNewswire) – African Americans make less, and in some cases much less, than their white and Asian counterparts, no matter what their undergraduate major.  In the most extreme case (economics majors), whites make 50 percent more than African-Americans – $25,000 more.

Using United States Census data available for the first time, the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce is helping Americans connect the dots between college majors and career earnings.  In the new report, What’s it Worth? The Economic Value of College Majors (http://cew.georgetown.edu/whatsitworth), the research demonstrates just how critical the choice of major is to African Americans’ median earnings, and how African Americans continue to be segregated by race in choice of major.

African Americans are most concentrated in Law and Public Policy majors (14 percent of people in these majors are African American), and Psychology and Social Work majors (11 percent). They are extremely underrepresented in Agriculture and Natural Resource and Engineering majors (2 percent and 5 percent, respectively).

While there is a lot of variation in earnings over a lifetime, the authors find that all undergraduate majors are “worth it,” even taking into account the cost of college and lost earnings.  However, the lifetime advantage ranges from $1,090,000 for Engineering majors to $241,000 for Education majors.

Some of the findings include:

The top 10 majors with the highest median earnings for African Americans are: Electrical Engineering ($68,000); Mechanical Engineering ($65,000); Information Sciences ($65,000); Computer Science ($61,000); General Engineering ($60,000); Nursing ($60,000); Management Information Systems and Statistics ($56,000); Architecture ($55,000); Medical Technologies Technicians ($55,000); and Computer Networking and Telecommunications ($54,000).  

The 10 majors with the lowest median earnings African Americans are: General Medical and Health Services ($32,000); Early Childhood Education ($35,000); Family and Consumer Sciences ($35,000); Human Services and Community Organization ($37,000); Social Work ($38,000); Fine Arts ($38,000); Physical Fitness, Parks, Recreation, and Leisure ($39,000); Liberal Arts ($40,000); Mass Media ($40,000); and Elementary Education ($40,000).

The analyses contained in the report are based on newly released data from the 2009 American Community Survey (ACS).  For the first time in the survey the Census Bureau asked individuals who indicated that their degree was a bachelor’s degree or higher, to supply their undergraduate major. The responses were then coded and collapsed by the Census Bureau into 171 different degree majors. Unlike other data sources focused on recent degree recipients, the Census data enables analysis across an individual’s full life cycle.

(Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce (http://cew.georgetown.edu) is an independent, nonprofit research and policy institute that studies the link between individual goals, education and training curricula and career pathways.)

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