at the "Raving Black Lunatic" blog is a post addressing the issue of the supposed advantages and disadvantages for African-American folks of attending a Historically Black College or University (HBCU), rather than a Traditionally White Institution (TWI).
A lot of good points (and hearsay) were raised in the "comments" section. But, being a social scientist of the Positivist persuasion, I like supporting my opinions with facts -- or at least, research findings. I mean -- surely there's been some
research on whether attending a HBCU results in better (or worse) odds of completing your B.A., higher (or lower) income, and etc.
So, I did a search, and got some interesting findings. (A more condensed version of the findings -- minus the actual sources -- are in the "comments" section of the RBL blog entry, linked to above.) But basically: for academic performance, income, and involvement in school activities, it's better to attend a HBCU.
And net of high school g.p.a., parental income and education, and a bunch of other things.
My specific question was: For AfrAms, what are the advantages and disadvantages (future earnings, graduation rates, mental health…) on attending HBCU vs. TWI?
I searched the “Sociological Abstracts” database on May 14, 2008 (Aussie time), using the search terms “historically black AND (college OR university OR universities)” in the Abstract (the one-paragraph summary of the article)
The oldest citation (which wasn’t directly relevant to my question, as it turns out) was 1980. Newest was 2007 (IIRC).
Please note that one of the difficulties with social science research is that the nature of the process, the findings are almost always “yesterday’s news” (e.g. a 1998 study, based on 1991 data – is it still relevant in 2008?).
Also, all of the relevant studies focused on the educational or occupational outcomes; only one dealt with more of the subjective aspect of the college experience (e.g. alienation vs. inclusion; enjoyment of the college experience; mental health), and that one didn’t look at it as an outcome (i.e. didn’t compare the experience of HBCU vs. TWI attendance). So: nothing on mental health, etc., if you choose to attend a TWI versus a HBCU.
If you have access to a university computer system, or know someone who is currently enrolled (or works on-campus), they can get you the original journal articles (nearly all are available now-a-days online as *.pdf documents – but your university needs to be a subscriber).
So: Here's what I got. It's not formatted all pretty-like, or arranged academic-style, 'cause I've already spent more time on it than what I probably shoulda.
ON THE EDUCATIONAL AND OCCUPATIONAL IMPACTS OF ATTENDING A HBCU:
((students starting in 1980, 1982, 1995))
The Effect of Attending an HBCU on Persistence and Graduation Outcomes of African-American College Students
Author Wilson, Valerie Rawlston
Source The Review of Black Political Economy, vol. 34, no. 1-2, pp. 11-52, June 2007
1995 students – (p. 18-19) of AfrAms, avg. SAT scores higher for those who attended TWI than HBCU (813 vs. 741), and higher percentage reporting “A to A-“ typical grades in high school (24% who went to TWI; 12% who went to HBCU). But this info doesn’t say whether this means that AfrAms who attend TWIs tend to be “better students”, or just conform to the U.S. educational system; and whether the average AfrAm who attends HBCUs was just turned off by H.S., and thus wants to try something new.
(p. 49) Net of a zillion background factors (e.g. parental education, kid’s H.S. g.p.a., family income, university’s tuition fees, amount of financial aid available at that university), AfrAms are not any more or less likely to take a break in their college enrolment at a TWI versus a HBCU. However (p. 46), although there wasn’t an HBCU effect for “completing the degree within six years” in the 1995 data, there **was** for the 1980 data: net of everything else (e.g. parental income, parental education, H.S. g.p.a., family structure [comes from two vs. one-parent HH], attending a HBCU **increased** the odds of actually graduating.
((H.S. class of 1972; 1986 wages))
Title The Effect of Attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities on Future Wages of Black Students
Author Constantine, Jill M.
Source Industrial and Labor Relations Review, vol. 48, no. 3, pp. 531-546, Apr 1995
Abstract Data from the National Longitudinal Survey of the Class of 1972, are used to estimate the effect of attending historically black colleges & universities (HBCUs) on future wages of black students. Findings show that although the precollege characteristics of students who attented HBCUs predicted lower wages than did the precollege characteristics of students who attended mixed or historically white institutions, the value added in future wages for blacks from attending HBCUs was 38% higher than that from attending white/mixed institutions. This evidence that HBCUs played an important role in the labor market success of black students in the 1970s should be carefully weighed in decisions affecting the future of these institutions. 6 Tables, 1 Appendix, 24 References. Adapted from the source document.
(p. 542, Table 5) HBCU wages in 1986 – HBCU has a wage benefit over TWI: $9.10 hr. vs. $8.45/hr (about an 8% bonus); once factors related to what influences people to CHOOSE a HBCU vs. a TWI are included, though, the wage difference is $17.11/hour versus $12.38/hr) – a 38% bonus for attending a HBCU. But again, this is based on the H.S. class of 1972, and their 1986 wages.
(p. 543) The authors note that these differences may not reflect long-term wage differences (i.e. further into their career paths). But there’s a definite advantage, rather than DIS-advantage. On average.
Title College in Black and White: Campus Environment and Academic Achievement of African American Males
Author Davis, James Earl
Source The Journal of Negro Education, vol. 63, no. 4, pp. 620-633, fall 1994
Predictors of academic success for AfrAms are similar for HBCUs and TWIs, although their relative influence differed at HBCUs vs. TWIs.
Title The Color of Success: African-American College Student Outcomes at Predominantly White and Historically Black Public Colleges and Universities
Author Allen, Walter R.
Source Harvard Educational Review, vol. 62, no. 1, pp. 26-44, spring 1992
(p. 38) AfrAm students attending a HBCU has stronger academic [college] achievement, involvement in [college] student activities, and occupational aspirations than comparable students attending TWI – net of H.S. g.p.a, gender, social class, whether they’d felt they’d made the right choice in attending their university, and their future educational aspirations (e.g. going on to graduate school).
Title Revisiting Racial Differences in College Attendance: The Role of Historically Black Colleges and Universities
Author Bennett, Pamela R.View Scholar Profile; Xie, Yu
Source American Sociological Review, vol. 68, no. 4, pp. 567-580, Aug 2003
"Prior research has shown that blacks are more likely than whites to attend college after high school graduation, net of socioeconomic background & academic performance."
Title The Historically Black College as Social Contract, Social Capital, and Social Equalizer
Author Brown, M. Christopher, II
Source Peabody Journal of Education, vol. 76, no. 1, pp. 31-49, 2001
Abstract The approximately 103 historically black colleges & universities (HBCUs) across the US share a historical responsibility as the "primary providers of postsecondary education for African Americans in a social environment of racial discrimination." Six primary goals of HBCUs as provided for by this special "social contract" are identified: (1) maintenance of the black historical & cultural tradition; (2) provision of key leadership for the black community; (3) service of an economic function for the black community; (4) provision of black role models; (5) creation of graduates with unique competencies to address minority-majority group relations; & (6) production of black agents for specialized research, institutional training, & information dissemination on dealing with life in minority communities. Ways that this social contract is realized through social capital &/or the distribution & reproduction of social networks & resources provided by HBCUs are described. It is concluded that HBCUs function as "social equalizers" in providing educational opportunities to those marginalized by a society unequally divided along racial lines. 1 Table, 52 References. K. Hyatt Stewart
Title Black Students, Black Colleges: An African American College Choice Model
Author McDonough, Patricia M.; Antonio, Anthony Lising; Trent, James W.
Source Journal for a Just and Caring Education, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 9-36, Jan 1997
Abstract In an examination of African Americans' college choice decision making, focus is on why students choose historically black colleges & universities. Independent of gender, family income, or educational aspiration, the most powerful predictor of such college attendance is geography, followed by the student's religion, the school's social reputation, & relatives' desires. The top three reasons why African Americans choose predominantly white institutions are because they are recruited by an athletic department, they wish to live near home, & they value the college's academic reputation. Personal affiliations (friends, parents, role models) are important influences for black college attendance, whereas school personnel are more influential for white institution attendance. 6 Tables, 1 Appendix, 40 References. Adapted from the source document.