DataPoints: Are there more Black undergraduates at public colleges than commonly reported?

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About 15% of students who identify as Black or African American nationwide are likely not included in common reports based on the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) — the core federal postsecondary education data collection program) — such as the Digest of Education Statistics. That is because students who identify as Black but also identify as Hispanic or Latino, or who choose more than one race, are reported in a different category when the data are summarized and reported to the federal government.

In the 2017-21 period of the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS), about 85% of students who self-identified (or were reported by a household member) as being Black or African American would have been reported as Black in IPEDS. Just as institutions are required to do when requesting student race/ethnicity information, ACS asks a two-part question: first, whether someone is Hispanic or Latino (which are not considered races); and second, which race(s) best describe them. On the second question, respondents can choose more than one.

In addition to ACS respondents who would have been reported as Black in IPEDS, another 10% also selected one or more other races, while 3% reported being Hispanic or Latino and Black or African American alone, and the remaining 2% reported being Hispanic or Latino and at least one other race in addition to Black or African American. The last two categories would have been included in the Hispanic or Latino count in most summaries.

These percentages vary widely by state. At one end of the spectrum, nearly 98% of public institution undergraduates identifying as Black in Mississippi would be included as Black in the IPEDS-based summaries, while only 74% of those in California and 58% of those in Oregon would be classified the same way.

State-level data, including details of respondents’ self-reported ancestry, are available here.

About the Author

Keith Curry
Dr. Keith Curry is president and CEO of Compton College in California and serves as chair of Level UP.