How Race Matters in the Classroom

Show Me the Numbers: Do black kids have problems in schools because so few teachers look like them?


Who Makes up the U.S. Teaching Population?

Today, of the more than 6 million teachers in the United States, nearly 80 percent are white, 9.3 percent are black, 7.4 percent are Hispanic, 2.3 percent are Asian and 1.2 percent is another race. Eighty percent of all teachers are female. Relative to the composition of preschool through 12th-grade students in the U.S., the current teaching force lacks racial and gender diversity. However, a deeper look at the numbers reveals that it may be harder than it sounds to diversify the ranks of teachers, particularly with black men.

Teachers comprise the largest professional occupation in the United States, accounting for the most professional employees among college-educated white women, black women and black men. Despite the large number of teachers relative to other professions held by college-educated black men, they represent less than 2 percent of the teaching force, of a student body that is 7 percent black male. I will address the reasons for that more fully in an upcoming column, but suffice it to say that with teaching already being the top profession for the black men qualified to do it, increasing significantly their share of the teaching force will be difficult.

By comparison, white female teachers comprise 62 percent of the teaching force, of a student body that is 26 percent white female. Considering the entire student body, the U.S. has one white female teacher for every 15 students and one black male teacher for every 534 students. See the graphic below for a complete picture of the racial and gender diversity in the U.S. teaching force.