Racism A Root Cause of Black College Grads Trouble Finding Jobs, Despite Strong Qualifications - Study Finds

Erica Antoine says the rate of black unemployment in America is “unfortunate.”

As a black woman and the president of Utica College’s Black Student Union, she said it hurts to watch her fellow black students struggle to find jobs despite their strong qualifications.

A 2014 study found a black man with an associate degree has the same chance of getting a job as a white man with a high school diploma.

“It affects (black graduates) long term in terms of financial stability and security for the future,” Antoine said. “It also discourages me as a fellow student because I feel as if I have to work twice as hard to gain recognition or status.”

The Center for Economic and Policy Research found about 12 percent of black college graduates in their mid-20s were unemployed. For all college graduates in the same age range, the rate was about 5 percent.

Utica’s NAACP President Dietra Harvey said she wasn’t surprised by the numbers.

“I think the exciting part is the percentages of African-Americans who are qualified are out there,” Harvey said. “For those jobs, however, even though there are laws for equal opportunity, we’re not seeing (black people in key jobs.)”

Immediately before the Great Recession, between 2007 and 2013, the black unemployment rate nearly tripled.

“Recent college graduates, especially black recent college graduates, have fared poorly in the recovery from the Great Recession,” the study suggests. “But even before the economic downturn, recent black college graduates were more likely than other recent graduates to be unemployed or to be in low-paying jobs that did not require a college degree.”

Harvey said it’s very discouraging for young people in the community to not see people “who look like them” employed.

“They’re going to have to stop and ask and wonder,” Harvey said. “They might think, ‘Wow, I don’t have an opportunity here.’”

Harvey said that when she brings young people from the Mohawk Valley Frontiers Club on tours of historically black colleges, the students are amazed to see so many African-American people in the same place.

“When you’re living in the community and you just don’t see people of your own race in key places or in general, you have to wonder, ‘Do I have a chance here?’” Harvey said.

Antoine said it’s all about first impressions.

“Individuals of African descent face prejudice during job interviews and the employment process,” she said.

And she said she’s noticed her friends have trouble especially if the applicant has an “urban or ethnic” name on their resume.

But of those black graduates who are employed, more than half were underemployed or in jobs that typically don’t require a four-year degree. Generally, one in three college grads report they are underemployed.

Harvey said if a day comes where the black unemployment rate is equal to the entire population, it would be representative of the entire world.

“It would be so nice if we could see that,” Harvey said. “It’s really a big problem here in our community.”

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