As enrollment in graduate programs becomes more common, income, race and ethnicity continue to play major roles in determining who pursues these advanced degrees, according to research from the Urban Institute.
A new report -- titled “Who Goes to Graduate School and Who Succeeds?” -- is the first in a series exploring graduate enrollment patterns, funding and completion. This brief explores the demographic breakdown of students who pursue advanced degrees.
The authors came to several key conclusions in the report:
- Students from high-income backgrounds disproportionately pursue graduate degrees, complete master’s degrees and choose a field that promises high wages. When students from low-income backgrounds go to graduate school, they most often pursue master’s degrees, rather than professional or doctoral degrees, which result in higher average salaries.
- Of black students who hold bachelor’s degrees, about 36 percent earn advanced degrees -- similar to the number of white students (37 percent) who do. However, only 8 percent of black adults aged 25 years or older holds an advanced degree, compared with 14 percent of white adults, indicating that the larger hurdle is completing a bachelor's degree. The authors described the bachelor's degree-holding black students as having "already beaten the odds." Black students are also more likely to complete master’s degrees over other graduate degrees.
- Men, Asians and younger students are significantly more likely to enroll in professional graduate programs, such as medicine or law. Conversely, master’s degree programs tends to attract more women, African-Americans and low-income students.
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