About the data
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To develop our representation measure, we determined the racial composition of a college’s enrollment and the racial composition of a college’s market. Data on college enrollment came from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). We obtained the IPEDS files for 2009 through 2017 using the Urban Institute’s Education Data Portal.
How we defined a college’s market varies by sector and selectivity. For more selective private universities, the market is the country, given that these institutions attract students from all geographies. For more selective public universities, the market is the state, as these institutions (like flagships) often have a mission to serve their state. For less selective institutions, we used data on commuting distance to define the market. We observed the distribution of commuting distance by students that attend each type of institution using the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study for 2015–16. These data summarize the distance from home that students are typically willing to travel to attend a college. We defined a college’s market radius using the 75th percentile of the distribution of commuting distance for each college level and urbanicity type. For less selective public colleges, this radius is bound by the state. For less selective private colleges, the radius is allowed to cross state boundaries. In the accompanying report, the market is consistently defined as the commuting radius bound by the state. We varied the approach for this visualization to make analyses of individual college’s data more meaningful.
With each of these market definitions, we also used data from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey five-year estimates at the census tract level to determine the demographics of people living within a college’s market. We used the population of 18-to-24-year-olds for potential four-year college students, and we used the population of 18-to-54-year-olds for potential two-year community college students. These age groups vary by institution level because nontraditional students are more likely to enroll in two-year colleges.
Our college representation measure is defined as the difference in a racial or ethnic group’s enrollment share at a college and its share of the college’s market population. If this difference is zero, the college’s enrollment share for a given group perfectly represents that group’s share of the population in the college’s market. If the measure is positive, a group is overrepresented in its enrollment share at the college. If the measure is negative, that group is underrepresented at the college.
Our national averages measure the average representativeness of colleges in the nation and are weighted by total college enrollment. Our state average estimates use a similar logic.
We use the Carnegie classifications of institutional selectivity, which categorize universities into three groups: “nonselective,” “selective,” and “more selective.”
Our dataset does not include private nonprofit two-year colleges, colleges that focus on distance education, colleges whose enrollment drops below 30 students during the study period, and colleges that appear less than five years in the IPEDS data study period. We also exclude the race or ethnicity group “other” because of concerns about interpretation and because our data sources may define this group differently.
We use the racial and ethnic terms listed in our data sources. We recognize the limitations of these choices, especially in surveys that ask people to self-report with a limited pool of options.
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and Kelia Washington