More Californians earn college degrees, but racial gaps widen

Suzanne Potter | California News Service
Nationally, the percentage of adults with at least an associate's degree went from 38% in 2010 to 45% in 2020. Photo Credit: Daisy Daisy / Adobestock

More and more Californians are going to college, earning an associate degree or higher but racial gaps persist, according to a new report.

Researchers from Georgetown University found degree attainment went up almost 6% between 2010 and 2020 but the gap between white adults and Latino or Black adults getting those degrees widened slightly.

Tony Carnevale, director of the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University, noted the lack of progress.

“What we have here is a race in which everybody is running faster, but no group is really changing their position in the race,” Carnevale explained.

The increase in degree attainment generally translates to gains of more than $2 trillion in net lifetime earnings. The lack of parity with white adults’ attainment leaves significant potential gains on the table, more than $3 trillion for Latino adults and $438 billion for Black adults in the Golden State.

Carnevale praised efforts to allow community colleges to offer some four-year degrees for certain majors in high demand. He would like to see more counseling services, so fewer students fall through the cracks, especially in low-income neighborhoods.

“People from less-advantaged families begin to lose ground in the early grades, as they start out strong with measured test scores that show that they’re very talented,” Carnevale observed. “But that gradually erodes.”

Carnevale added there is good news about the next generation. Research shows many Latino parents who immigrated in the 1990s are now sending their children to college at very high rates.

Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.