Losing ground: Colorado minorities closing gaps in education

By: Burt Hubbard, I-News at Rocky Mountain PBS
September 23, 2013 Updated: September 23, 2013 at 12:24 pm
photo - Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia
Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia 

Black and Latino adults in Colorado narrowed some of the wide education gaps with their white counterparts last year, according to an I-News analysis of new U.S. Census Bureau data.

Colorado no longer has the largest gaps in the nation in college graduation rates between black and white residents and both Latino and black adults saw high school graduation gaps narrow to their lowest levels in decades.

"That's good news all the way around," said Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia, who also is executive director of the Colorado Higher Education Department. "It's the result of more focus and more collaboration between K-12 and higher education."

However, income, poverty and home ownership disparities between whites and the state's largest minority groups remained unchanged between 2010 and 2012, the analysis found.

An I-News investigation published earlier this year of six decades of Census data found that minority gains made in key economic and education areas had eroded over time. In many cases, the disparities between Latinos, blacks and whites were wider in 2010 than they were in the 1960s and 1970s.

The latest Census data from the 2012 American Community Survey of states and their largest cities and counties found across the board increases in minority high school and college graduation rates since 2010.

The percent of black adults 25 years of age and older with college degrees rose from about 20 percent to 24 percent during the two years. That narrowed the gap with their white counterparts to less than 20 percentage points compared to 23 percentage points in 2010. White college graduation rates inched up less than one percentage point to 43 percent in 2012.

As a result, Colorado no longer has the largest gaps in the U.S. between white and black adults. It now ranks third behind Connecticut and Massachusetts, the I-News analysis found.

Sharon Bailey, a former Denver Public Schools board member and a member of the Colorado Black Round Table, said the state's attention to education disparities may be starting to pay off.

"I do think there has been a bigger spotlight put on graduation rates and remediation," Bailey said.

The round table was scheduled to hold a community forum Saturday at Manual High School in Denver on minority education and economic gaps.

The college graduation gap between Latino and white Colorado adults remained unchanged in the new report, exceeding 30 percentage points, and was still the largest in the U.S.

Both Latino and black adults continued to narrow the gaps in high school graduation rates. Black rates rose from 86 percent to 89 percent and Latino rates rose from 65 percent to 68 percent between 2010 and 2012, while white rates stayed at about 96 percent.

Both gaps are the smallest since 1960.

However, Garcia said that most new jobs in the state in the coming years will require more than a high school degree.

"A high school degree just isn't going to cut it," he said. "When we look at Colorado's economy, we know that some 70 percent of the jobs that will be created in the next 10 years will require some post-secondary credentials."

Both Garcia and Bailey said the state needs to step up its efforts on educational attainment.

Bailey said Colorado needs to look at factors behind minority successes and replicate them.

Garcia said they should work on eliminating barriers to minorities completing college, such as the high rate of remedial classwork, while expanding programs such as concurrent enrollment which allows students to take college class while still in high school.

"We have to do a better job if we want to have a strong economy long term."

The gaps in economic areas such as family income and home ownership either remained unchanged or widened slightly between 2010 and 2012, the analysis found. Family income and poverty gaps widened between white and black residents, while homeownership gaps widened between white and Latino households.


I-News is the public service journalism arm of Rocky Mountain PBS. To read the Losing Ground report go to http://www.inewsnetwork.org/losingground/ Contact Burt Hubbard at bhubbard@inewsnetwork.org



New education and economic demographics for black, Latino and white residents in Colorado between 2010 and 2012, based on the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey released last week.

High School graduation rates among residents 25 years and older. Both Latino and black adults have narrowed the gaps in graduation rates.

High school graduation rate

Race 2010/2012

Black 86%/88.9%

Latino 65%/68.1%

White 95.4%/95.9%

Gap in High School graduation rates with white adults (in percentage points)

Race 2010 gap/2012 gap

Black 9.4/7

Latino 30.4/27.8

College graduation rate

The gap in college graduation rates between white and black adults fell, while the gap between white and Latino remained the same.

Race 2010/2012

Black 19.5%/23.7%

Latino 12%/12.7%

White 42.5%/43.3%

Gap in college graduation rates with whites (in percentage points)

Race 2010 gap/2012 gap

Black 23/19.6

Latino 30.5/30.6

Median family income

The gap between black and white families widened, but declined between Latino and white families.

Race 2010 Median family income/2012 Median family income

Black $47,821/$45,920

Latino $39,423/$41,968

White $76,587/$78,908

Gap measured as a percent of white median family income

Race 2010/2012

Black 62.4%/58.2%

Latino 51.5%/53.2%

Home ownership

The gap between white and black households dropped slightly, but the gap between white and Latino households widened slightly.

Race 2010 homeownership/2012 homeownership

Black 40.9%/40.2%

Latino 49.6%/47%

White 70.4%/68.8%

Gap with white households (in percentage points)

Race 2010 gap/2012 gap

Black 29.5/28.6

Latino 20.8/21.8

Poverty rate among all residents

The gap between white and black Coloradans widened, while the gap between white and Latino residents was about the same.

Race 2010 Poverty rate/2012 Poverty rate

Black 25.7%/29.7%

Latino 24.9%/24.8%

White .3%/9.4%

Gap with white residents (in percentage points)

Race 2010 gap/2012 gap

Black 16.4/20.3

Latino 15.6/15.4

Source: I-News at Rocky Mountain PBS analysis of new data from the U.S. Census Bureau

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