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Race, Elite College Admissions, and the Courts: The Pursuit of Racial Equality in Education Retreats to K–12 Schools

June 12, 2023

If the Supreme Court bans race-conscious affirmative action, as expected, selective higher education institutions almost certainly will become less diverse, reducing the rates of degree attainment among students from historically underrepresented racial/ethnic groups. This report explores the legal history of racial equity in education, evaluates alternatives to using race/ethnicity in college admissions, and considers changes to the K–12 education system that would improve educational opportunity. In the long term, the only way to ensure diversity at selective higher education institutions is to confront the segregation and inequity in K–12 education and society at large.

What Works: Ten Education, Training, and Work-Based Pathway Changes That Lead to Good Jobs

May 1, 2023

All along the journey from youth to young adulthood, there are critical junctures at which a change in pathway can have a tremendous impact on a young person's future. What Works: Ten Education, Training, and Work-Based Pathway Changes That Lead to Good Jobs identifies 10 pathway changes with the greatest potential to improve employment outcomes for young adults. The report uses the Pathways-to-Career policy simulation model, developed by CEW researchers using longitudinal data, to identify promising junctures at which strategic interventions could increase the likelihood of working in a good job.

Race-Conscious Affirmative Action: What's Next

March 27, 2023

An expected national ban on the consideration of race in college admissions will threaten the racial and ethnic diversity of students at selective colleges unless these colleges fundamentally alter their admissions practices. Race-Conscious Affirmative Action: What's Next finds that selective colleges barred from considering race and ethnicity in their admissions decisions may be able to partially claw back some racial/ethnic diversity using class-conscious admissions practices, but they will be extremely unlikely to enroll student bodies that come close to mirroring the demographic diversity of the high school class.

The Colleges Where Low-Income Students Get the Highest ROI

January 24, 2022

College typically pays off for low-income students, but not as much as it does for their peers. Low-income students, whose families earn $30,000 or less per year, comprise more than one-third of college students. The Colleges Where Low-Income Students Get the Highest ROI finds that low-income students have a lower return on investment (ROI) than all students, largely because they tend to earn less as adults. This holds true across public and private institutions and certificates, associate's degrees, and bachelor's degrees. Among institutions that primarily award bachelor's degrees, public institutions generally lead to the highest ROI for low-income students during a 40-year timeframe ($951,000), followed by private nonprofit institutions ($863,000) and for-profit colleges ($763,000). The ROI for low-income students follows a similar pattern at colleges that primarily grant associate's degrees and certificates, with the highest returns from public institutions, followed by private nonprofit and for-profit institutions. However, low-income students' returns from associate's degrees can exceed $1 million, and certificates can be just as lucrative, depending on which college a student attends.

Youth Policy: How Can We Smooth the Rocky Pathway to Adulthood?

December 6, 2021

While boosts in labor demand have helped young workers as the economy recovers from the COVID-19 recession, young people continue to grapple with a youth labor market that has been deteriorating for 20 years. Their prospects have been dimmed by three major recessions: the burst of the dot-com bubble (2001), the Great Recession (2007-2009), and the COVID-19 recession (2020). Further, long-term structural changes in the economy have favored older workers with more experience, training, and education while limiting opportunity for young workers.Youth Policy: How Can We Smooth the Rocky Pathway to Adulthood? examines the United States' fragmented and inadequate approach to youth policy against the backdrop of these economic pressures and recommends changes necessary to move toward a more comprehensive and holistic approach.

Navigating the College-to-Career Pathway: The 10 Rules of Moving from Youth Dependency to Adult Economic Independence

October 21, 2021

Over the past half century, postsecondary education has played an increasingly important role in career preparation in the United States. Having a college degree or certificate has become both more valuable in the labor market and more expensive, with much of the burden falling directly on students and their families. Meanwhile, the postsecondary landscape has become increasingly complex. Navigating the College-to-Career Pathway: The 10 Rules of Moving from Youth Dependency to Adult Economic Independence, published in partnership with the Postsecondary Value Commission, highlights key considerations for students as they prepare to make one of the biggest financial decisions of their lives.

If Not Now, When? The Urgent Need for an All-One-System Approach to Youth Policy

October 18, 2021

This report makes the case that the United States' disjointed approach to youth policy has failed young people. In the current fragmented system, pre-K–12, postsecondary education, and the workforce operate in silos that allow many young people to fall through the cracks. In its place, the country needs an all-one-system approach that supports youth on their journey through education and training and into careers.

The College Payoff: More Education Doesn’t Always Mean More Earnings

October 6, 2021

The College Payoff: More Education Doesn't Always Mean More Earnings explores how lifetime earnings vary by education level, field of study, occupation, industry, gender, race and ethnicity, and location. The lifetime earnings of a full-time full-year worker with a high school diploma are $1.6 million, while workers with an associate's degree earn $2 million. However, at least one quarter of high school graduates earn more than an associate's degree holder. Bachelor's degree holders earn a median of $2.8 million during their career, 75% more than if they had only a high school diploma. Master's degree holders earn a median of $3.2 million over their lifetimes, while doctoral degree holders earn $4 million and professional degree holders earn $4.7 million. However, one quarter of workers with a bachelor's degree earn more than half of workers with a master's or a doctoral degree.

Selective Bias: Asian Americans, Test Scores, and Holistic Admissions

July 14, 2021

Selective Bias: Asian Americans, Test Scores, and Holistic Admissions evaluates the common arguments made by affirmative action critics and Students for Fair Admissions, which is suing Harvard University and has lawsuits pending against the University of North Carolina and the University of Texas at Austin over their admissions practices. The report finds no strong evidence of discrimination against Asian American applicants in admissions to highly selective colleges.

Mission Not Accomplished: Unequal Opportunities and Outcomes for Black and Latinx Engineers

May 25, 2021

Engineering occupations are some of the highest-paying and most prestigious in the US labor market, but they are also some of the least diverse. Mission Not Accomplished: Unequal Opportunities and Outcomes for Black and Latinx Engineers finds that of the nearly 1.7 million prime-age engineering workers in the United States in 2019, 81% were either White or Asian, and 84% were men. A mere 3% of engineers working in the field in 2019 were either Black or Latinx women.

The Cost of Economic and Racial Injustice in Postsecondary Education

May 11, 2021

In partnership with the Postsecondary Value Commission, we conducted a thought experiment on the costs of inequality in the US education system. Our simulation found that the US economy misses out on $956 billion per year, along with numerous nonmonetary benefits, as a result of postsecondary attainment gaps by economic status and race/ethnicity. The Cost of Economic and Racial Injustice in Postsecondary Education finds that closing these gaps would require an initial public investment of at least $3.97 trillion, but the benefits would outweigh the costs over time. Equalizing educational attainment without increasing student debt for low-income adults could also boost GDP by a total of $764 billion annually.

15 Million Infrastructure Jobs: An Economic Shot in the Arm to the COVID-19 Recession

March 29, 2021

A $2 trillion jobs plan (of which $1.5 trillion will go to infrastructure) from the Biden-Harris administration would be good medicine to nurse the economic wounds inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The infrastructure plan would create or save 15 million jobs over 10 years and would increase the share of infrastructure jobs from 11% to 14% of all jobs in this country, temporarily reviving the blue-collar economy.