Today’s New York Times has an article full of hand-wringing over the possibility that the “higher education gap” (that is, the fact that blacks and Hispanics seem to be falling farther behind whites and Asians in earning college degrees) might slow economic mobility for the former groups.
The mistake here is the common one of believing that just getting education credentials is vital to upward mobility. They’re neither necessary nor sufficient. Some blacks and Hispanics without higher-ed credentials do better than whites with them.
If you’re really interesting in helping people (let’s stop talking about groups) who are currently poor, stop fretting about enrolling a few more in college. Instead, worry about the ineffective basic education they so often get in public schools and clearing away governmental obstacles to business and employment opportunities for them. The way cities stifle new business enterprises with needless regulations is extremely detrimental to residents who’d like to begin businesses.
Thomas Sowell points out that for black Americans, economic progress was much more rapid in the 1950s — when hardly any went to college, but when there were far fewer anti-entrepreneurial regulations– than in the following decades when many more earned college degrees.