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Majority of African Americans Support Free College

A new nationwide survey on race and the future of work commissioned by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies finds a significant majority of Americans support free college or training, with African Americans ranking highest (85 percent) of any racial group. The results – released in tandem with the National Urban League Conference in Indianapolis – also reveal significant differences between how communities of color view workforce issues nationally.

“Our report offers the most in-depth view to date of how communities of color perceive the future of work, providing insights for lawmakers to address long-term challenges and ensure Americans from all backgrounds are prepared to compete in a rapidly evolving economy,” said Spencer Overton, president of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and tenured Professor of Law at George Washington University.

The report – one of six the Joint Center will release this year regarding race and the future of work – finds communities of color have significant interest in education and training as policymakers, employers, and education leaders grapple with how to prepare the workforce for a changing economy.

For example:

  • African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans are all more likely than Whites to pursue higher education at a 4-year, community or online institution when needing to gain new skills for their current or future job.
  • Nearly a third of Latinos believe vocational training options are most impactful for preparing children for the future of work—more than any other racial group.
  • Asian Americans (41 percent) are 70 percent more likely than African Americans (24 percent) to believe that technology has provided them more opportunities in the workplace.
  • While survey respondents of all racial backgrounds report that technology has created more job opportunities and efficiencies than it has eliminated, African Americans are the least likely to believe this to be true.

“In 20 to 30 years, people of color will constitute over half of all Americans,” said Overton. “Over that same period, a substantial majority of jobs will require some form of education or training beyond what’s offered in high school. Yet, most discussions of the future of work ignore the disproportionate effects it will have on communities of color. If we’re to meaningfully address rather than simply replicate the historical inequities that continue to burden communities of color, we need policymakers, employers, and education providers working in unison to ensure workers of color have meaningful opportunities to gain the skills required to overcome the seismic labor market challenges on the horizon.”

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