As a majority-minority campus, UC Merced has a unique opportunity to combat economic inequality by closing racial gaps for underrepresented minority students. Many campuses have pursued “Critical Race Theory” degrees that teach students how to analyze race issues. Many students who choose this degree are hopeful that it will equip them to combat systemic racism and promote greater equality.

However, data from recent graduates across the country reveals that race studies and other ethnic studies majors provide little opportunity for students. Race studies majors have one of the highest unemployment rates losing out to degrees like theology and art history. According to data from the American Community Survey, 57% of race-studies graduates are either unemployed or working in jobs that don’t require a college degree.

DSC_0679-10As of 2013, race-studies graduates with bachelor’s degrees that do find work earn on average only $23,280 after graduating, compared to $55,653 for liberal arts degrees, $52,800 for education degrees, $63,827 for psychology or social science degrees, $75,917 for business degrees, and $95,225 for STEM degrees. It’s important to recognize that minority students actually earn larger wage increases for business and STEM majors. Said simply, the best way to provide opportunities to minority students is to offer mobility-enriching degrees.

WagesIn addition, race theory students graduate with higher levels of debt than the average student. With significantly lower salaries, race-studies degrees make it difficult for students to achieve a middle-class life. If loans become delinquent, these degrees can mire students with fines and garnished wages. Minority students make up 90 percent of race-studies majors, and as a result, these degrees disproportionately affect minority students, increase economic inequality, and fail to provide needed upward mobility for underrepresented groups.

Race studies majors, moreover, do not seem to adequately prepare students for graduate school. In the U.S., only 22% of recent graduates have earned a master’s degree and 5% have earned PhDs. Far fewer race studies graduates go on to earn a master’s degree or PhD. While students of race studies majors are extremely limited in their appeal to graduate programs, students of biology, psychology, engineering, statistics, and math thrive in graduate school.

The failure of race-studies majors to adequately prepare their students for graduate school is seen in falling test scores between college entrance and graduate applications.

Average LSAT scores land around the 150s with “good” scores being in the 160s. The average race studies major scores a 147 on the LSAT, while the average score is 156 for history majors, 157 for literature and international relations, 158 for biology and philosophy, 159 for economics and public policy, 160 for engineering, 161 for classics and physics, and 162 for mathematics. The low-level of true critical thinking in race-theory majors is evidenced by the fact that race-theory majors enter with higher-than-average SAT scores and depart college with lower-than-average LSAT scores.

DSC_0691-15Race studies majors have higher unemployment, lower salaries, more debt, and fewer graduate opportunities. In many instances, race studies majors would have been better off had they not attended college.

Though well-intentioned, a “Critical Race Theory” major would set minority students back and undermine the university’s goals to provide rich opportunities to minority students. UC Merced is perhaps the most successful minority-graduating institution in the country. Even small failures in our promotion of minority students to promising careers and higher learning can result in devastating setbacks to attaining racial equality and equal opportunity.

I implore the university to shun a major that simultaneously caters to and harms its minority students. UC Merced has an opportunity to set a precedent for equal opportunities, education, and brighter futures for it’s historically underrepresented students.

Photo Credit: Marcus Fox

Wage graph courtesy of State Council of Higher Education for Virginia



  1. Some of the statistics reported in this article are inaccurate.
    The link in this article to the “American Community Survey” actually connects to a StartClass website that inaccurately reported statistics from a Census Bureau Study here:
    According to that study, Ethnic Studies majors have a 6% unemployment rate, which is comparable to the 5.6% and 5.7% unemployment rates of Biology and Psychology majors. Theology has a 6.4% unemployment rate. The lowest unemployment rates are for majors in Construction, Education, and Agriculture (around 1-2%).
    And there is no major anywhere anyhow that averages a $95K salary right after graduating.
    It is, of course, true that some majors lead to more lucrative careers than others, but that is irrespective of the ethnic background of the person in that major. If a person wants to pursue a major in any of the Humanities or Social Sciences, they should be allowed to follow their dream, and not be misled by inaccurate reports of statistics.