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


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.