Demographic Attributes of S&E Degree Recipients

The presence of certain groups among S&E degree recipients differs from their overall representation in the U.S. population (Figure 2-8). Under- or overrepresentation by sex and racial or ethnic group varies by field of study and degree level (NCSES 2019b).,

Representation of racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. population and among S&E degree recipients: 2017

Note(s):

Hispanic may be any race; race categories exclude Hispanic origin. U.S. population data reflect the percentage of people in each racial and ethnic group in the U.S. population between ages 20 and 34 on 1 July 2017. Degree totals may differ from those elsewhere in the report; degrees awarded to people of unknown or other race were excluded.

Source(s):

U.S. population data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Degree data from National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Completions Survey.

Science & Engineering Indicators

S&E Degrees by Sex

On average, women earn half or more of associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees overall; in S&E fields, their shares are lower (Figure 2-9; see also Table S2-4, Table S2-6, Table S2-8, and Table S2-10). Long-standing differences between men and women persist in some fields but are gradually diminishing in others.

S&E degrees awarded to women, by degree level and field: 2017

Note(s):

Doctoral degree data in this figure differ from doctoral degree data in other tables and figures in this report that are based on the National Science Foundation Survey of Earned Doctorates and that refer to research doctorates only.

Source(s):

National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Completions Survey.

Science and Engineering Indicators

Historically high-participation S&E fields for women include psychology, biological sciences, and social sciences. In 2017, women earned about half or more degrees awarded at all degree levels in these fields. Historically low S&E participation fields include engineering; earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences; computer sciences; mathematics and statistics; and physical sciences. Women’s participation in these fields varies. The physical (low participation) and social (high participation) sciences include fields where women’s participation rates differ from the overall trends. In chemistry, for example, women approached near parity with men at the bachelor’s and master’s levels, but not at the doctoral level. In economics, women earned around one-third of bachelor’s and doctoral degrees.

Since 2000, women’s overall share of S&E bachelor’s degrees has remained at about half, although the trend over time varies across fields. In computer sciences and mathematics and statistics, the number of women earning bachelor’s degrees increased during this interval; the number of men, however, grew at a faster rate than the number of women, resulting in an overall decline in women’s share from 28% to 19% in computer sciences and from 48% to 42% in mathematics and statistics (Table S2-6).

Unlike S&E bachelor’s-level degrees, the share of doctoral degrees received by women increased across virtually all S&E fields since 2000 (Table S2-10). Overall, S&E doctorates earned by women increased from 11,000 (39%) in 2000 to 21,000 (45%) in 2017. Women earned more than half of doctorates in most social sciences fields and in biological and medical sciences in 2017. Women earned about one-quarter of doctoral degrees in engineering in 2017, up from 16% in 2000; however, there was variability across engineering fields. Women earned relatively low shares of doctoral degrees in computer sciences (23%) and mathematics and statistics (27%).

S&E Degrees by Race and Ethnicity

The racial and ethnic composition of S&E degree recipients has changed over time, reflecting population changes and increasing rates of higher education attainment by members of underrepresented minority groups. The gap in educational attainment has narrowed across racial and ethnic groups, but it remains. In 2017, the percentage of people ages 25–29 with a bachelor’s or higher-level degree in any field differed among blacks (23%), Hispanics (19%), and whites (42%) (Snyder et al. Digest of Education Statistics 2017: Table 104.20). These gaps in many cases reflect lower rates of high school completion, college enrollment, and degree attainment. (For information on immediate post–high school college enrollment rates, see the Science and Engineering Indicators 2020 report “Elementary and Secondary Mathematics and Science Education.”)

Racial and ethnic groups vary in S&E degree attainment levels. In most fields, Hispanics earn substantially larger proportions of S&E associate’s degrees than bachelor’s and higher degrees. Blacks, by contrast, do so in only some S&E fields (Figure 2-10). Since 2000, the share of S&E bachelor’s degrees awarded annually to Hispanic students nearly doubled while the share awarded to black students remained flat. The share awarded to Asians increased slightly, and the share awarded to American Indians or Alaska Natives dropped (absolute numbers also declined). While the number of S&E bachelor’s degrees earned by white students increased between 2000 and 2017 (Table S2-7), their overall share declined (Figure 2-11). The number of degrees earned by students of more than one race and other or unknown race or ethnicity, increased from 14,000 to 48,000 during this period.

S&E degrees awarded to Hispanics or Latinos and blacks or African Americans, by degree level and field: 2017

Note(s):

Hispanic may be any race; race categories exclude Hispanic origin. Doctoral degree data in this figure differ from doctoral degree data in other tables and figures in this report that are based on the National Science Foundation Survey of Earned Doctorates and that refer to research doctorates only. The greatest differences are in psychology, education, and medical and other life sciences. These data reflect totals for U.S. citizens and permanent residents at all degree levels.

Source(s):

National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Completions Survey.

Science and Engineering Indicators

Share of S&E bachelor's degrees awarded to U.S. citizens and permanent residents, by race and ethnicity: 2000–17

Note(s):

Hispanic may be any race; race categories exclude Hispanic origin. Percentages may not add to total because data do not include people who did not report their race and ethnicity and those who reported more than one race.

Source(s):

National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Completions Survey; National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, National Science Foundation, Integrated Data System (IDS).

Science and Engineering Indicators

Social sciences and psychology were the most common S&E bachelor’s degree fields among many racial and ethnic groups. Engineering degrees were more common among Asians and whites than among other groups. Asians were also more likely to earn biological sciences bachelor’s degrees compared with other groups (Table S2-7).

Many of these trends over time are similar for doctoral degree awards. Overall, underrepresented minorities—blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians or Alaska Natives—earned more S&E doctorates in 2017 compared with 2000 (Figure 2-12 and Figure 2-13, Table S2-11). In 2017, blacks and Hispanics collectively earned 14% of S&E doctorates (up from 8% in 2000). In comparison, Asians earned about 9% of S&E doctorates in 2017 (unchanged from 2000), while whites earned 66% (down from 77% in 2000). S&E doctorates as a percentage of total doctorates varied across racial and ethnic groups: from a low of 38% for blacks to a high of 75% for Asians.

S&E doctoral degrees awarded, by race, ethnicity, and citizenship: 2000–17

Note(s):

Underrepresented minority includes American Indian or Alaska Native, black or African American, and Hispanic or Latino. Hispanic may be any race; race categories exclude Hispanic origin. Doctoral degree data differ from doctoral degree data in other tables and figures in this report that are based on the National Science Foundation Survey of Earned Doctorates and that refer to research doctorates only. Greatest differences are in psychology and medical or other health sciences. The large drop in U.S. data in 2009 is due to the change in doctoral categories in the survey.

Source(s):

National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Completions Survey; National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, National Science Foundation, Integrated Data System (IDS).

Science and Engineering Indicators

S&E doctoral degrees awarded to U.S. citizen and permanent resident underrepresented minorities, by race and ethnicity: 2000–17

Note(s):

Doctoral degree data in this table data differ from data found in other tables and figures in this report that are based on the National Science Foundation Survey of Earned Doctorates and that refer to research doctorates only. Greatest differences are in psychology and medical or other health sciences. Hispanic may be any race; race categories exclude Hispanic origin. The large drop in 2009 is due to the change in doctoral categories in the survey.

Source(s):

National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Completions Survey; National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, National Science Foundation, Integrated Data System (IDS).

Science and Engineering Indicators

Racial and ethnic groups also vary in their fields of doctoral degree (Table S2-11). In 2017, the top field for black recipients was medical and other health sciences (32% of S&E doctorates awarded to blacks), followed by psychology (18%), biological sciences (13%), and political science and public administration (9%). Psychology is the top field for Hispanics (24%), followed by biological sciences (20%), engineering (14%), and medical and other health sciences (14%). For Asians, the top fields are engineering and biological sciences (24% each), followed by medical and other health sciences (15%) and psychology (8%).

Blacks were more likely to earn S&E doctorates at for-profit institutions (in 2017, 25% did so, compared with 7% of Hispanics, 4% of whites, and 3% of Asians). While the number of S&E doctorates earned by blacks from “highest research activity” doctoral universities rose from about 500 in 2000 to more than 850 in 2017, the percentage of blacks who earned doctorates from these institutions declined from 61% to 40% during this time.

S&E Degrees by Race, Ethnicity, and Sex

In 2017, underrepresented minority women earned more than half of their racial or ethnic group’s S&E bachelor’s degrees, whereas white and Asian women earned slightly less than half (Table S2-12). Similarly, women earned more than half of the S&E doctorates across all groups except whites, where they earned 49%.

Within fields, differences between men and women appear to hold across racial and ethnic groups. Women in all racial and ethnic groups earned most bachelor’s degrees awarded in social and behavioral sciences and about half of bachelor’s degrees awarded in natural sciences (ranging from 45% for whites to 53% for blacks). However, the difference in the number of bachelor’s degree awards between women and men is especially high in engineering across all racial and ethnic groups. Among blacks, the proportion of bachelor’s degree awards in engineering that went to women declined from 36% to 25% between 2000 and 2017; in natural sciences, it declined from nearly 60% in 2000 to 53% in 2017 (in both cases, however, absolute numbers of women earning doctorates increased).