by Joanna Lin, California Watch
Californians who are Asian Indian or Taiwanese are among the most highly educated in the state, recently released census data shows.
Among both groups, about 7 out of 10 people ages 25 and older hold at least a bachelor's degree. On average, 3 out of 10 Californians have earned a bachelor's degree or higher.
The findings come from the 2006-2010 American Community Survey, which includes detailed estimates of social, economic and housing characteristics for 392 racial, tribal, Hispanic origin and ancestry groups. The five-year survey is the first time since the 2000 Census that such statistical detail has been available for the groups.
The data reveals significant disparities between racial and ethnic groups that often are lumped together.
For example, when counted as a whole, 48.5 percent of Asians in California hold at least a bachelor's degree. That number masks that 11.5 percent of Laotians but nearly 53 percent of Pakistanis have bachelor's degrees.
"Asians aren't all monolithic in terms of opportunities to higher education," said Joanna Lee, a senior research analyst at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center's Demographic Research Project.
Lee and her colleagues are working on an analysis of University of California and California State University data. Their initial findings show that "there's differences within Asian Americans as to who is actually enrolling and who is actually being admitted" that aren't apparent when Asian Americans are viewed as a whole, she said.
Income, poverty and, for immigrants, their pathway to the United States all play a role in educational attainment, Lee said.
Similar variations exist among Hispanics and Latinos: As a group, about 10 percent hold bachelor's degrees. But the rate is nearly 30 percent among Cubans, Dominicans and Peruvians, 8.5 percent among Mexicans and about 9 percent for Salvadorans and Guatemalans.
Among Latinos, educational attainment often reflects nativity and immigration patterns, said Mark Hugo Lopez, associate director of the Pew Hispanic Center.
"Native-born Latinos look an awful lot like other young people in the U.S. when it comes to enrolling in school, their educational expectations," he said. "Among those who were born in other countries, however, you'll notice that very few have college degrees. … Many have no high school diploma."
For Latino immigrants, economic opportunities are by far the most common reason for coming to the U.S. But Peruvians and Salvadorans might come to the U.S. for different reasons, and different opportunities in their countries of origin might influence who decides to migrate, Lopez said.
Still, Pew research found that Latinos value education more than the general population: 88 percent of Latinos say a college degree is important for getting ahead in life, compared with 74 percent of the general public that says the same. When young Latinos were asked why they cut their education short during or right after high school, 74 percent say they did so because they had to support their family.
But the number of Latinos in the United States pursuing college degrees is on the rise. Among Latinos ages 18 to 24, college enrollment jumped 24 percent from 2009 to 2010, a period when their overall numbers rose by just 7 percent.
"In two decades or so, we might see a different pattern in (educational attainment) gaps than we do now," Lopez said.