African American Women Obtaining Higher Education


There is no secret that even in the XXI century, major education issues have not yet been resolved, the problem of education for African Americans in general and African American women, in particular, being one of the major concerns. Despite the opportunities that have opened for African Americans in general and for African American women in particular, the latter still neglect the chance to be educated better and gain new skills and knowledge. The given phenomenon can supposedly be attributed to the economic and financial difficulties that members of Black communities have to face on a regular basis; however, it can also be assumed that a major part of the reasons for the given behavior is spawned by the key features of the African American culture and traditions.

Introduction: Rationale for the Research. Dropouts and the Related Concerns

In the XXI century, new education opportunities have opened for not only young people but also people in their 40s and 50s. More to the point, most employees demand that their staff should have higher education diplomas. However, African American women of the specified age do not seem to be willing to further their education.

Research Questions: What Motivated African American Women for Studying

  1. What are the key factors that block African American women’s way to obtaining higher education?
  2. What are the major obstacles that prevent African American women from completing higher education?
  3. How smart do Africa American women consider themselves in terms of their academic skills?
  4. Did African American women who are capable of obtaining a degree now receive support and encouragement in their academic performance as children?
  5. What were the family dynamics for the African American women who are nowadays in their 40s and 50s and are capable of enrolling into a college or a high school?
  6. Do African American women in their 40s and 50s believe that they are unable of furthering their education?

Literature Review: African American Higher Education in the XXI Century

An overview of the existing data concerning higher education for African American women has shown that the issue is, in fact, not new – Black women have been facing considerable obstacles in their attempts to gain new knowledge and better skills for quite a long (Mokhele, 2013).

Weirdly enough, in the researches concerning education for the members of the Black community, traditionally, the age gap is discussed less actively than the gender gap. Indeed, as the recent studies show, the lack of encouragement from the members of their own families, as well as fixed social roles for women in Black communities, define the patterns of education for African American women to a considerable degree.

The given feature is very characteristic of the African American culture in general, as researches have shown: It should be noted, though, that there have been attempts to change the given opinions within the society in question; according to Thomas and Jackson, “Early advocates of education for African American girls and women generally argued that elevating the Black woman’s position in society would uplift the entire race” (Thomas & Jackson, 2007, p. 359–360) These arguments, however, we’re obviously not enough to make the changes of such grand scale.

Thus, it can be assumed that the difference in the treatment of male and female African American employees can be interpreted as another reason for Black women of 40–50 years old to remain, housewives, instead of acquiring the knowledge and skills required to pursue a legitimate career: “Disparities for African Americans, male or female, persists not only by employment but also within the salaries they obtain” (Loubert, 2012, p. 375).

One of the most controversial and uneasy issues to touch upon, the lack of diversity in the field of high education should also be named among the key reasons for African American women to drop out of high schools and case their attempts to enroll in higher education institutions (Olzak & Kagnas, 2008). As has been stressed above, Jeounghee’s research has proven that the rates of diversity in contemporary American educational institutions are deplorably low.

Therefore, the competition created by the rest of the students, combined with the lack of support from family members, results in African American women believing that they do not have enough intelligence to deliver the same high scores in their tests as other students do. More to the point, the issue of marriage and family life, the latter being rather topical for Black women of 40–50 years, contributes to making the gap between the African American students and the rest of the class even greater (Jeounghee, 2012).

Moreover, the necessity to get involved in competition with the rest of the students does not improve the situation much. As recent researches have shown, African American women, especially those in their 40s–50s, believe that they do not have the intelligence that it takes to stand the competition and graduate from high school, college or university.

Finally, the family ties also affect the African American women’s intent to continue their education. When it comes to defining the key obstacles that Black women in their 40s and 50s have to face while trying to get a good education, one must mention the impact of the social responsibilities, primarily the need to care for the family, first. As recent researches show, it is important for married couples that the partners should be on the same “education level,” per se: “[…] an educational difference in the divorce rate would emerge among African Americans” (Jeounghee, 2012, pp. 812–813). Previous researches stressed the influence of parents on the issue in question (Keplerman, Eryigit & Stephens, 2008).

However, according to more recent ones, it turns out that these are not the parents, but the spouses that define African American’s women attitude towards the idea of getting a better education and, therefore, better chances for career advance (Evans & Cokley, 2008). Such influences of Black women’s husbands trigger massive drops in the rates of women in their 40s and 50s to resume their education process.

On the one hand, one might assume that the choice of caring for the family members instead of advancing one’s education and, therefore, career, is optional. However, as has been stressed above, the impact of community and its values is crucial for African Americans (Bradley, 2005); as a result, most women of the age range specified above must neglect the opportunity to get a better education because of the pressure of social norms, as well as the obtrusive influence of the community members imposing a particular social role on women.

As a result, the number of Black women, especially those in their 40s or 50s, willing to continue their education and receive a diploma is becoming increasingly small. With a number of chores predisposed by their social role, little support from their family members and their community, as well as the instances of racial profiling faced in higher education establishments and institutions, African American women have little to no motivation for becoming more educated (Raque-Bogdan, Klingaman, Martin & Lucas, 2013).

Research Hypotheses: Family and Prejudice as the Key Obstacles to Obtaining Education

  • Hypothesis 1. African American women in their 40s and 50s refuse from taking their chances with obtaining higher education because of the necessity to provide for their family and the resulting lack of time for any educational endeavors.
  • Hypothesis 2. African American women in their 40s and 50s refuse from obtaining higher education since they believe that they are not smart enough to enroll in a college or a university and continue their education together with younger and seemingly more successful students.
  • Hypothesis 3. African American women of 40 to 50 years, who did not have family support in their childhood and studentship, are unwilling to continue their education due to the lack of self-esteem and belief in their own success.

Conclusion. Dependent and Independent Variables: What Needs to Be Researched and How

In the course of the research, the way in which a social environment, a social status, a family, a cultural background, as well as a family background, affect African American women in their 40s and 50s in terms of their decision to continue studies or drop out of school. The aforementioned factors, which are going to include social ones, for the most part, will be regarded as independent factors, whereas the African American women’s motivation in their choices will be considered the dependent variable. Once defining the former ones and establishing the relationships between the two, one will be able to suggest solutions for improving the current state of education aspirations among African American women.

Reference List

Bradley, C. (2005). The career experiences of African American women faculty: Implications for counselor education programs. College Student Journal, 39(3), 518–527. Web.

Evans, J. L. & Cokley, K. O. (2008). African American women and the academy: Using career mentoring to increase research productivity. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 2(1), 50–57. Web.

Jeounghee, K. (2012). Educational differences in marital dissolution: Comparison of White and African American women. Family Relations, 61(5), 811–824. Web.

Keplerman, J. L., Eryigit, S. & Stephens, C. J. (2008). African American adolescents’ future education orientation: Associations with self-efficacy, ethnic identity, and perceived parental support. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 37(8), 997–1008. Web.

Loubert, L. (2012). The plight of African American women: Employed and unemployed. The Review of Black Political Economy, 39(4), 373–380. Web.

Mokhele, M. (2013). Reflections of Black women academics at South African universities: A narrative case study. Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences, 3(4), 611–619. Web.

Olza, S. & Kagnas, N. (2008). Ethnic, women’s, and African American studies majors in U.S. institutions of higher education. Sociology of Education, 81(2), 163–188. Web.

Raque-Bogdan, T. L., Klingaman, E. A., Martin, H. M., & Lucas, M. S. (2013). Career-Related parent support and career barriers: An investigation of contextual variables. The Career Development Quarterly, 61(4), 339–353. Web.

Thomas, V. G. & Jackson, J. A. (2007). The education of African American girls and women: Past to present. The Journal of Negro Education, 76(3), 357–372. Web.