Policies and practices throughout the educational pipeline harm the educational attainment of black and Hispanic Americans. Using administrative data from Virginia and Connecticut colleges, we first examine graduation rate gaps within colleges, finding that even after adjusting for precollege student characteristics, gaps remain stubbornly high at many colleges. Next, we decompose the statewide gaps into components caused by differences in student characteristics—such as academic preparedness before college entry and financial need—and components caused by differences in college quality and differential access to high-value colleges. We find that 45 percent of the black-white gap in graduation rates is because of differences in college readiness, but about 29 percent is attributable to racial gaps in access to colleges with high graduation rates.
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