A Growing Supply of Minority Ph.D.s

January 11, 2005

New data on doctorates awarded in 2003 are encouraging for efforts to diversify faculties. The number of black and Hispanic Ph.D.s are up, especially among black women, and the long-term gains are impressive.

The data come from the "Survey of Earned Doctorates," which is conducted annually for six federal agencies by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. When the data are released every year, much of the attention goes to the total number of new Ph.D.s (up slightly again) or to the high proportion of foreign graduate students earning doctorates in certain scientific fields.

But the survey provides a wealth of data that is crucial for academic departments seeking to attract more black and Hispanic professors.

In 2003, 1,796 Ph.D.s were awarded to black people who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. That total represents 7 percent of the doctorates awarded to U.S. citizens, a percentage that has been creeping upward in recent years, but that represents enormous growth over time. Fifteen years ago, in 1988, only 965 Ph.D.s were awarded to black people -- 4 percent of the total.

For Hispanics, Ph.D.s in 2003 totaled 1,419, or 5 percent of the total. Fifteen years ago, those figures were 693 and 3 percent.

Within the black cohort, several other trends stand out:

  • Education remains the top field for black doctorates.
  • Among black doctoral recipients, 64 percent are women, up from 57 percent 10 years ago and 52 percent 20 years ago. Women earned 50 percent of doctoral degrees awarded to white students last year, 45 percent 10 years ago, and 38 percent 20 years ago.
  • The percentage of black doctorates awarded by historically black colleges was 10 percent, holding steady in recent years after rising during the 1980's and falling from a peak of 14 percent in 1990.
  • The percentage of black doctorates awarded to students who received their undergraduate degrees at historically black colleges is significant (28 percent), but declining (the figure was nearly 50 percent in 1981).

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