Black graduates of elite colleges choose low-paying, low-status, “racialized” jobs in education, social work and community and nonprofit organizing, according to Opting Out: Losing the Potential of America’s Young Black Elite. Blacks with prestige degrees rarely choose high-paying, high-prestige careers in finance, science, information technology or engineering, concludes Maya A. Beasley, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut, who also serves on the board of the Institute for African Studies.
Not everyone is cut out to be a great social worker, she writes. Some would contribute more — and earn more — as brain surgeons or business leaders.
. . . according to the 2000 Census, the top 20 white-collar careers among both black and white employees include elementary and secondary education as well as registered nursing. But break it down further and you’ll find that white people hold proportionately more high-status positions: lawyers, physicians, surgeons, chief executives and financial, general and operations managers. Black employees, in contrast, trend toward “service-oriented, racialized jobs” including counselors, education administrators, preschool and kindergarten teachers and community and social service specialists.
Beasley interviewed 60 students — 30 black, 30 white – at Stanford and Berkeley. “Black students aspired to careers in which they have greater numbers and/or to racialized occupations,” she writes. Whites “showed a more diverse range of occupational interests.”
Colleges should discourage blacks from self-segregating on campus, Beasley advises. Minority-themed residence halls may limit students’ networking opportunities and fan their fears of racism. In addition, colleges should encourage black students to go into science and engineering fields where some feel unwelcome.