A new study features a novel twist on an ongoing controversy; A head-to-head comparison of black Americans and black immigrants indicates that while affirmative action may not do much good for people of color, a private education does. “On socioeconomic factors such as education, income, and residential segregation, black immigrants generally fare better than African-Americans,” the authors of the study found.
“The percentage of all foreign-born blacks over 25 years old with a bachelor’s
degree is 25 percent, compared with 16 percent of native-born blacks (U.S.
Bureau of the Census 2004).”
“Africans are the most educated immigrant group, with many originally coming to the United States to pursue a college or professional degree.” And they are successful in that pursuit.
“Not only are black immigrants overrepresented at elite academic institutions, but the overrepresentation is greatest in the most exclusive stratum,” according to the study published in the February 2007 American Journal of Education.
The study drew on data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Freshmen (NLSF). “Among African Americans attending Ivy League schools (represented
in the NLSF by Columbia, Princeton, Penn, and Yale), for example, 41 percent were of immigrant origin, 18 points greater than in the NLSF’s state institutions,” the study found. The study was compiled by researchers from Princeton and Penn.
“Among the 10 most selective schools in the sample (those with the highest average SAT scores), immigrants made up 36 percent of all black students,” the researchers discovered. “Among the 10 least selective institutions (those with the lowest average SAT scores), immigrants made up just 24 percent, a differential of 12 percentage points that is highly statistically significant.”
The researchers rule out favoritism as a possible reason for the trend but their data point to an even more intriguing possible cause for the imbalance. “Although superior standing on objective indicators may very well stem from the selectivity of the migration of the student’s parents, college personnel do not observe or are indifferent to where the parents were born or how they got here,” the researchers write. “They do not care about why a student came to have high grades and test scores; they simply focus on the fact that the students are black (and thus satisfy the criteria for affirmative action) and that they
have outstanding academic records (and thus satisfy the criteria for competitive admission).”
Moreover, although their grades were fairly similar, their standardized test scores were not. “Among indicators of academic preparation, there are no significant differences
between black immigrants and natives with respect to grade point [averages] or
advance placement courses taken, though both lag significantly behind whites,” the researchers report. “However, we do observe a significant difference between immigrant- and native-origin African Americans with respect to SAT scores, an indicator of
cognitive skills (see Jencks and Phillips 1998).”
“Blacks of immigrant origin earn a significantly higher score on the SAT (1250) compared with their native counterparts (1193), though both are well below the score for whites (1361).”
Still, the immigrants stand a better chance of catching up because they are more likely to attend private schools, which outpoll public institutions on the College Board exams year after year, decade after decade. “Whereas 72 percent of black natives attended a public high school, only 58 percent of black immigrants did so,” the researchers show. “Instead, 26 percent of those of immigrant origin attended a parochial school (compared with 16 percent among natives), and 16 percent went to a private, nonsectarian institution (compared with 11 percent of natives).”
Whether school choice works or not, choosing Catholic schools clearly works for immigrants more than brave new quotas do.
Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.