Those odds are gradually improving. And policymakers say some of the same approaches could succeed for other groups that go to college at lower levels than whites for surprisingly similar reasons—including, in the United States, Hispanics, blacks, and Native Americans. “A lot of these things are transferable,” said Peter Stoicheff, the university’s president.
As in the United States, they’re also practical.
The number of Canadians who identify as indigenous grew four times faster than the rest of the population between 2006 and 2011, the most recent period for which the figure is available. And that pace is expected to continue, according to the government agency Statistics Canada.
Nearly a third are 14 or younger and another 18 percent are 15 to 24, Statistics Canada reports, meaning they’re college age, or will be soon. That’s double and triple the proportion of non-indigenous Canadians, respectively.
Nationally, about 4 percent of Canadians are indigenous, up from 3 percent in 2001. But in some provinces, the indigenous population is much higher, including Saskatchewan, where it’s an estimated 20 percent. “If you were not paying attention to one fifth of your population, you would really need to start to,” Stoicheff said.
A similar shift is well under way in the United States, where the number of college-age Hispanics will more than double by 2060, according to projections by the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas at Rice University, while the supply of college-age whites declines. The number of African Americans will increase 42 percent by then, the Census Bureau says.
But only 21 percent of Hispanics and 24 percent of Native Americans 25 and older have some college education, according to the Lumina Foundation, which tracks this. (Lumina is a funder of The Hechinger Report, which produced this story in partnership with The Atlantic.) That’s less than half and about half the proportion of whites, respectively. In Canada, an even lower 9.8 percent of indigenous people have university degrees, Statistics Canada reports.
Ignoring groups like these not only means risking empty seats at universities as populations shift, say experts; it’s costly to economies. “There is a combination of a moral imperative and an economic imperative,” said Paul Davidson, the president of Universities Canada, the principal association of Canadian universities—an economic imperative worth $90 billion in Saskatchewan alone, according to the Gabriel Dumont Institute of Native Studies. That’s how much more money would be generated in just this one province, right now, researchers found, if the education divide were erased between indigenous and non-indigenous people, thanks to higher incomes, more tax revenue, and savings that result from better health and less crime.
In the United States, closing the gap between Hispanics and non-Hispanics would increase personal income nationwide by $24.4 trillion by 2060, based on current trends, a book coauthored by the Hobby Center director and former U.S. Census Bureau head Steve Murdock calculates.