According to a new study by the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank (pdf), higher education does not protect the wealth of all racial and ethnic groups equally.
Compared to their less-educated counterparts, typical white and Asian families with four-year college degrees withstood the recent recession much better and have accumulated much more wealth over the longer term. Hispanic and black families headed by someone with a four-year college degree, on the other hand, typically fared significantly worse than Hispanic and black families without college degrees.
In other words, while higher education leads to higher income and wealth compared to non-college graduates for all ethnic and racial groups, changes in wealth and income during the Second Great Depression are much more uneven.
Thus, in terms of wealth, white and Asian college-headed families generally fared much better than their less-educated counterparts, while the typical Hispanic and black college-headed family lost much more wealth than its less-educated counterpart. When it comes to changes in real income, the experience of whites and Hispanics runs counter to their respective wealth changes; for blacks, however, the results are similar: black college-headed families lost much more wealth and income than non-college families.
The authors of the study thus conclude,
Higher education alone cannot level the playing field. Evidence presented here suggests that college degrees alone do not provide short-term wealth protection, nor do they guarantee long-term wealth accumulation.