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March 24, 2003
Education Gap Shrinks But Pay Lags for Women, Minorities

More than one-quarter of adults age 25 and older had at least a bachelor's degree in 2002, about 1 percentage point higher than the previous year, according to a Census Bureau report. The jump in the percentage of college graduates resulted from significant increases for women, non-Hispanic whites and African-Americans.

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When it comes to income, however, white men with a college degree, on average, earned about 40 percent more than white women with a similar education level did and 30 percent more than black and Hispanic men earned, the Houston Chronicle reports.

In addition, although almost half of people of Asian descent have graduated from college, they earned 8 percent less than whites did in 2002, the newspaper reports.

"There's a wedge between minority education gains and the payoff, and that's discrimination and the kinds of job opportunities available," says Jared Bernstein, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute.

About 3-in-10 young adults, ages 25 to 29 in 2002, had completed a bachelor's degree, matching the 2000 record high, according to the Census Bureau. Adults age 18 and over with a bachelor's degree earned an average of $50,623 a year in 2001, while those with a high school diploma earned $26,795 and those without a high school diploma averaged $18,793. Advanced degree-holders made an average of $72,869 in 2001. Other highlights for the population 25 years and over in March 2002:

  • Asians and Pacific Islanders had the highest proportion of college graduates (47 percent), followed by non-Hispanic whites (29 percent), African-Americans (17 percent) and Hispanics (11 percent).
  • The proportion of Hispanics born in the United States who had a bachelor's degree or more (14 percent) was higher than that of those born outside the country (9 percent). For Asians and Pacific islanders, the corresponding rates were much closer: 44 percent and 48 percent, respectively.
  • Ninety percent of the employed civilian labor force age 25 and over had a high school diploma and 32 percent had a bachelor's degree or higher.
  • The Northeast region had the highest proportion of college graduates (29 percent), followed by the West (28 percent). The proportions of college graduates in the Midwest (26 percent) and the South (25 percent) were not statistically different.



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