New Study Shows African Americans Are Highly Concentrated in Low-Paying Majors

According to a recent study released by Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, African Americans make up 12% of the U.S. population, but are severely underrepresented in college majors that lead to high-paying occupations.

Despite nearly 4.6 million African Americans holding a four-year college degree, just 8% account for general engineering majors, 7% for mathematics majors and 5% for computer engineering majors. When it comes to business, the numbers are also low with blacks accounting for 7% of finance and marketing majors. While there is a slight uptick to 10% of black students in health majors, many are concentrated in low-paying health majors such as health and administrative services versus pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences.

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“The low-paying majors that African Americans are concentrated in are of high social value but low economic value,” said Anthony P. Carnevale, who serves as director of the Georgetown Center and co-author of the report. “Meaningful career planning before college can provide transparency about major choice and potentially prevent onerous debt and underemployment down the road.”

With STEM, health and business majors providing the highest career salary earnings, Georgetown examined 137 majors and spotlighted which fields tend to have the highest and lowest pay specifically for African Americans. According to the results, African Americans with STEM-related degrees can earn as much as 50% more than African Americans with a bachelor’s degree in art or psychology and social work.

Click the infographic below for a breakdown of the highest-earning majors and least-earning majors for black professionals.