The Missing Doctorates

Black Ph.D.'s in science and engineering are more likely than others to end up teaching in non-science fields, NSF study finds 
June 19, 2006

Hypothesis: All science and engineering doctorates do not behave similarly.

It’s true, according to a National Science Foundation report using data from the NSF’s 2003 Survey of Earned Doctorates.

Black faculty members with doctorates, for example, are more likely to have their appointments outside of science and engineering, in, perhaps, education, business, and  management. And when black faculty members take their positions, they’re much more likely than any other racial or ethnic group to do so at comprehensive institutions – defined according to 1994 Carnegie classifications – even if they earned their doctorates at research I institutions.  

One of the main reasons black doctorates end up at comprehensive institutions in large numbers, according to the report, is because many of them work at historically black colleges and universities. Such institutions employ a mere 2 percent of all faculty members with science and engineering doctorates, but they employ 28 percent of black doctoral science and engineering faculty members.

Black and Hispanic people with science (including social sciences) and engineering doctorates are more likely than other ethnic groups to be employed in the education sector, partially because they are more likely than white and Asian doctorates to have their degrees in social and behavioral sciences, fields for which “academic employment is prevalent,” the report says.

Around 60 percent of both black and Hispanic doctorates work in the education sector, according to the report, compared to about 49 percent of white doctorates and about 37 percent of Asian doctorates.

Asian doctorates – 51 percent of them – are far and away the most likely to be employed in industry. White doctorates are the next closest at 29 percent, and blacks are the lowest at 19 percent.

White and Asian docorates, around 77 percent of them, were the most likely to have earned their doctorates at research I institutions, compared to around 70 percent for black, Hispanic, and Native American people with doctorates.

And those faculty members who earned their doctorates at research I institutions tend to teach at research I institutions – 43 percent of them overall. Native Americans who got doctorates at research I institutions, 47 percent of them, were most likely to then teach at a research I. Seventeen percent of faculty members who got doctorates at research II institutions teach at research I institutions, and 14 percent of them teach at research II institutions. About 33 percent – 46 percent among blacks – of faculty members with doctorates from research II institutions teach at comprehensive institutions.

On a positive note, the report forecasted an increase in the number of minority senior faculty members. Of the 214,000 faculty members, as of 2003, at colleges and universities who have science or engineering doctorates, 12 percent were Asian, 4 percent were black, 3 percent were Hispanic, and less than 1 percent were Native American. Among faculty members who received science or engineering doctorates in 2000 or later, 16 percent were Asian, 7 percent were black, and 4 percent were Hispanic. Native Americans, however, still accounted for less than 1 percent.

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