While racial disparities in education have narrowed in the United States, African American individuals from well educated backgrounds still find it especially difficult to attain the same high level of education as their parents, a study finds.

At a first glance, it’s a story of success. Over the past three to four generations, both the white and Black populations in the US have become much better educated. At the same time, the gap in educational attainment between the two groups has narrowed significantly.

And yet the study offers a more nuanced and less optimistic perspective on this progress through extensive analysis of educational data from 72,000 American parents and children.

On the one hand, the study confirms that racial gaps in educational attainment have generally narrowed. It also highlights a significant advancement: African American children from less educated family backgrounds are now just as likely as their white counterparts to transcend barriers to upward mobility and attain a level of education that surpasses that of their parents.

On the other hand, children from well-educated families with an African American background remain significantly disadvantaged compared to their white peers. On average, they receive less schooling and have a harder time keeping up with their parents’ educational attainment.

The study appears in the American Journal of Sociology.

“Seeing the diminished role of racial background in the educational prospects of children from less educated families marks a significant stride toward equality,” says study author Kristian Karlson, associate professor in the University of Copenhagen’s sociology department.

“Nevertheless, it’s concerning that, on a broader scale, the African American community appears to encounter additional obstacles in sustaining their educational achievements at the highest levels.”

Read the full article about racial disparities in education by Søren Bang at Futurity.