Brooklyn Boro

College graduation rates rise in Brooklyn, but many still lag behind

Within ethnic groups, trends vary by neighborhood

January 28, 2021 Raanan Geberer
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In Brooklyn, 39.6 percent of all working adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, the second-highest rate behind Manhattan. 

Still, the rate varies by ethnic background, with Latinos having the lowest percent of college graduates, and the high-poverty areas of East New York (10.7 percent) and Brownsville having the lowest percentages geographically, according to a new report from the Center for the Urban Future called “Building an Inclusive Economy in NYC: Boosting College Attainment.”

A color-coded map that is included in the report shows that the areas with the highest percentage of college graduates are in northwest Brooklyn, stretching from Carroll Gardens to Greenpoint.  Data comes from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

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The next-highest areas are in Bay Ridge and Gravesend-Midwood. As we’ve mentioned, the areas with the lowest percentages are Brownsville and East New York, with other areas, such as Bed-Stuy, Flatlands and Bensonhurst, falling in the middle.

The borough as a whole has definitely seen an improvement over the years. For example, between 2008 and 2018, the percent of the working-age population having at least a bachelor’s degree increased from 30.4 percent in 2008 to 36.9 percent, the biggest jump of any borough. In addition, another 6.4 percent have an associate’s degree.

Students relax on the Brooklyn College campus. Eagle file photo by Raanan Geberer

Citywide, 64 percent of white New Yorkers of working age have bachelor’s degrees, 45.1 of Asian New Yorkers have BA’s, 26.6 percent of Black New Yorkers have BA’s, and 19.5 percent of Hispanic New Yorkers (possibly reflecting the inclusion of recent immigrants) have BA’s. 

Within particular racial and ethnic groups, these numbers vary widely by neighborhood. For example, in Brooklyn, the BA attainment rate for working-age Hispanics is lowest in East New York-Starrett City (10.7 percent) and highest in Park Slope-Carroll Gardens-Red Hook (42.3 percent). 

For working age Black residents, the rate is lowest in Ocean Hill-Brownsville (15 percent) and highest in Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights (62.5 percent). And among Asians, the rate is lowest in Sunset Park-Windsor Terrace (19.6 percent, possibly because many recent immigrants live here) and highest in Park Slope-Carroll Gardens (83.8 percent).

In this map, based on data from the American Community Survey, the darker-colored areas have higher rates of college graduates. Map courtesy of Center for the Urban Future

Within particular neighborhoods, the increase in the percentage of college graduates varies by ethnic and racial group. 

For example, the report says, “the share of Bushwick residents with a bachelor’s degree skyrocketed from 13.8 percent in 2008 to 33.5 percent in 2018, yet the biggest gains were among white residents (41.7 percent to 71.1 percent). The gains were notable but more modest among Black (14.6 percent to 24.5 percent) and Hispanic (8.2 percent to 14.1 percent) residents.” 

As observers of Brooklyn life know, Bushwick during the past decade received a large influx of young white people, many of whom are from suburban or affluent families, as a “spillover” from Williamsburg.

The report calls on candidates running for mayor to set a 10-year target of achieving a 50 percent increase in the number of Black and Hispanic New Yorkers with a college credential–and back it up with a set of policies and investments to get there.  

“The study stresses that college isn’t the only path to good jobs, and it urges the next mayor to take other steps, including investments in apprenticeships, bridge programs, and job training. But it also concludes that it will be difficult to create a more inclusive economy in New York without closing persistent gaps in college attainment,” the Center for the Urban Future stressed.


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