Infographics of the Day: How Race Relates to College Grad Rates

Even while some minorities are surging ahead, others are trailing far behind.

Higher education has always been the golden ticket to better fortunes. So you’ve gotta wonder: Who’s cashing in, who’s stagnating, and why? The answers are all contained in a must-see interactive infographic showing college graduation rates across the country, created by the Chronicle of Higher Education.


We’ll get to the nuances of the story behind the data in a second, but let’s look at how the map works. You get to see a color coded scale showing what portion of each county in the U.S. has a college degree — the bluer the county, the more people are college graduates. And for every county, you can see a detailed chart, showing exactly how it stacks up against others:


[Click to go to interactive version]

But where it gets really interesting is the filters — you can see the data, screened by race, income, and even population density. For example, it’s no surprise that richer counties also have lots of college grads:



Nor is it surprising that dense population centers — cities, in other words — also have highly educated workforces. After all, that’s where the greatest opportunities lie if you’re highly skilled:


But everything goes a little bit haywire when it comes to race. Let’s look at Asians, for example. Their college graduation rates are almost hard to even fathom — nationwide, a whopping 49% have college degrees, which is roughly twice the rate of the entire country:



Hispanics, meanwhile, have just a 13% rate of college graduation. But there are glimmers that things are getting better, in various hotbeds around the country where Hispanics are doing quite well; in fact, the rates are well above 40% in many parts of the country:


But where it all breaks down is when you look at Hispanics living in heavily Hispanic counties. Compare all those swathes of blue in the map above to this one:



[The dark brown areas are excluded from the map, since they’re not heavily Hispanic.]

Which is both shocking and a bit worrisome, and the pattern holds for both Blacks and Hispanics. Now, obviously, there are some self-selection effects going on here: For example, new immigrants seeking low-wage, low-skill jobs likely seek out communities of people like themselves, which share a language and a culture. But if you believe that your peer group affects your own ambitions and attainments, then living in a homogeneous neighborhood is actually the worst thing a new Latino immigrant can do to raise their own fortunes.

America might be a melting pot, but it only works when people themselves actually melt together.

[Check out the interactive version here]


About the author

Cliff was director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.