On Monday, the New York Times published an article called "In Job Hunt, College Degree Can't Close Racial Gap." In the piece, reporter Michael Luo asserts, "Black joblessness has long far outstripped that of whites. And strikingly, the disparity for the first 10 months of this year, as the recession has dragged on, has been even more pronounced for those with college degrees, compared with those without."
That's right, even a college degree won't give African Americans an advantage in the job hunt. This is quite disturbing considering how often young blacks are urged to get an education to overcome racial barriers. Using figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Luo determined that the unemployment rate for black male college graduates 25 and older in 2009 has been nearly twice that of white male college graduates -- 8.4 percent compared with 4.4 percent.
I've little doubt that racism contributes to African American men and women, alike, encountering difficulty obtaining employment. A few months ago, I wrote two articles--"Avoid Hiring Discrimination" and "Discrimination During a Job Interview" --for the Race Relations site about this very subject. Writes Luo: "Various academic studies have confirmed that black job seekers have a harder time than whites. A study published several years ago in The American Economic Review titled 'Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?' found that applicants with black-sounding names received 50 percent fewer callbacks than those with white-sounding names."
Another study found that whites, Latinos and Asians were all more likely to hire whites over blacks. Luo didn't just cite studies, however. He interviewed two dozen black male college graduates about their employment experiences. The men reported receiving surprised looks and lack of enthusiasm from prospective employers when they showed up for job interviews, not to mention offhand remarks.
Perhaps even more illuminating than Luo's article were the comments that readers left about their own experiences with perceived job discrimination. A reader who left the comment under the name "Drtobe" wrote:
"I am well-educated, motivated and ready to contribute but because my parents decided to honor our heritage in the choice of my name I have to alter my resume (so my name sounds 'less black') and then be on pins and needles before an interview because of the potential 'shock value' of my presence despite three degrees and years of experience."
Another commenter who posted under the name of "Brownunemployedgirl" stated:
"I have a non-Black sounding name and attended prestigious universities for undergrad and grad school. I also had the experience--twice--of arriving at a job interview and having my interviewer do a blatant double-take when s/he saw that I was Black. ...Any Black person who thinks s/he can hide behind a fancy degree (even with relevant experience) in this job market is deluding themselves."
Readers, what do you think? Is it delusional for people of color to think that education will help them overcome a tight job market further complicated by racism?