New Report Details Barriers to Black Girls’ Success

By Julianne Hing Sep 25, 2014

A collection of statistics: 34 percent of African-American girls did not graduate high school on time in 2010, compared to 22 percent of all female students.

Twelve percent of African-American pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade female students received an out-of-school suspension during the 2011-2012 school year. Black girls’ suspension rate is six times higher than their white female counterparts. In the state of Wisconsin that school year, more than one in five of every black girl received an out-of-school suspension. Researchers have found that racial disparities in student rates of misbehavior do not account for this gulf.

In 2013, 43 percent of black women without a high school degree were living in poverty, compared to 28 percent of white women with the same levels of educational attainment. Black women with full-time jobs working year-round still make just 64 cents on the dollar compared to white men, and 82 cents for every dollar that their white female counterparts make.

At the root of each of these inequities are longstanding structural barriers to black women’s educational and economic success, argues a new report (PDF) put out this week by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (NAACP LDF) and the National Women’s Law Center. "Unlocking Opportunity for African American Girls" offers historical context for black girls’ and women’s educational and economic experiences, as well as policy recommendations to address these racial gaps.

The report is also a response to the excitement and concern inspired by My Brother’s Keeper, the Obama administration initiative to support boys of color. The $200 million, five-year initiative was launched in February with the involvement from federal agencies and private corporations. Critics of My Brother’s Keeper have argued that racial inequity is not felt more deeply by boys than girls, and that excluding girls sidelines their experiences.

In August, the African American Policy Forum and UCLA School of Law’s Critical Race Studies Program hosted a hearing in Los Angeles, the third of its kind, to raise awareness about the experiences of girls of color who, as co-host and law professor Kimberle Crenshaw said, "experience some of the same things boys experience and somethings boys never dream of."

Read the NAACP LDF and National Women’s Law Center report in full (PDF).