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The Charts that the NYT Didn't Want to Show You

Posted by: Michael Mandel on May 24

Once again, a front page story in the New York Times about how horrible everything is. This time, it’s college education, and the title of the story is “The College Dropout Boom.”

Of course, despite a large number of column inches devoted to the story, the NYT managed to not find room for the following table, which shows the percentage of 25-29 year olds who have completed a bachelor’s degree or more (before 1992, it measures the percentage who completed 4 years of college or more)

………….White Black Hispanic
1980-1984….23.1 12.1 9.2
1985-1989….23.5 11.9 10.1
1990-1994….24.5 12.5 8.6
1995-1999….28.1 15.0 9.8
2000-2004….29.0 17.2 10.0

Data: Census (my apologies for the look of the table)

Guess what? The numbers are going up… a lot. For example, for blacks the college graduation rate has gone from 12.5% in the early 1990s to 17.2% over the past five years.

One of the biggest jumps was for black males, who went from 13.8% college graduates in the late 1990s, to 16.4% college graduates from 2000-2004.

This represents real mobility. Yes, it could be true that the increase in black male college graduates is coming from the affluent class. But the increase in the number of affluent black families would represent real mobility as well.

Why, then, are there so many more dropouts?

Well, it's very simple. The degree of accessibility to education is far higher than in the past, so a lot more high school graduates start college. The latest data shows that about 2/3 of new high school graduates are attending college the fall after graduation. In 1980, only about half of new high school graduates went onto college.

Yes, more money to hold down college tuition would be good, especially at public colleges where the hikes have been especially steep. But the increase in dropouts reflects an increase in accessibility.

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Reader Comments


May 26, 2005 09:16 AM

great article.


May 27, 2005 09:18 AM

Why is it a good thing to send thousands of unprepared students to college? I think both the increase in the number of students entering 4-year colleges and the rising number of dropouts represent a huge problem with the way we prepare young people to function in our economy. I suspect that many of those new students go to college because they don't know what else to do; aside from the parties, they would rather have jobs. I think we should spend much less on 4-year colleges and much more on community colleges and other more narrowly focused kinds of technical training, leaving the university for people who really want to be educated in the traditional sense.

Thank you for your interest. This blog is no longer active.



Michael Mandel, BW's award-winning chief economist, provides his unique perspective on the hot economic issues of the day. From globalization to the future of work to the ups and downs of the financial markets, Mandel-named 2006 economic journalist of the year by the World Leadership Forum-offers cutting edge analysis and commentary.

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