Separate and Unequal: How higher education reinforces the intergenerational reproduction of white racial privilege

A. P. Carnevale
J. Strohl


This report analyses enrollment trends at 4,400 postsecondary institutions by race and institutional selectivity over the past 15 years. Since 1995, 82 per cent of new white enrollments have gone to the 468 most selective colleges, while 72 per cent of new Hispanic enrollment and 68 per cent of new African-American enrollment have gone to the two-year open-access schools. These separate higher education pathways matter because resources matter. The selective colleges spend anywhere from two to almost five times as much on instruction per student as the open-access colleges. Even among equally qualified white, African-American and Hispanic students, these pathways are not only separate but they bring unequal results. More than 30 per cent of African-Americans and Hispanics with a high school grade point average (GPA) higher than 3.5 go to community colleges compared with 22 per cent of whites with the same GPA.



This report gives insight to racial and ethnic access to higher education. The research finds that higher education access is increasing for African American and Hispanic students, but polarization is increasing as well. Polarization accounts for the types and status of institutions that students are entering into. As such, a smaller ratio of African American and Hispanic students are entering top tier schools. This is happening even holding college readiness constant. Lastly, this report also notes that class differences has a major impact on students gaining access to college, and while both race and class matter when looking at access to higher education, they should not be used as synonymous terms or as proximities for one another.

APA Citation

Carnevale, A.P., & Strohl, J. (2013). Separate and unequal: How higher education reinforces the intergenerational reproduction of white racial privilege. In S.R. Hiltz & R. Goldman (Eds.), Learning together online: Research as asynchronous learning networks (pp. 19-37). New Jersey: Lawrence Elrbaum Associates, Inc.

About the Study

Links to Article
Publication Type Report
In Publication Learning together online: Research as asynchronous learning networks
Type of Research Quantitative
Research Design Survey research (qualitative or quantitative)
Intervention/Areas of Study Student readiness, Other
Level of Analysis Student-level
Specific Populations Examined Low income or pell grant eligible, Minority status
Peer-Reviewed No
Specific Institutional Characteristics of Interest
Specific Course or Program Characteristics
Outcome Variables of Interest Academic achievement or performance, including assessment scores and course grades, Degree attainment, Persistence, Retention, Satisfaction
Student Sample Size 500 +
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