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women and minorities
Introduction Chapter 1: Precollege Education Chapter 2: Undergraduate Enrollment Chapter 3: Undergraduate Degrees Chapter 4: Graduate Enrollment Chapter 5: Graduate Degrees Chapter 6: Employment Technical Notes Appendix Tables
Chapter Contents:
Transition to graduate school
Enrollment trends
Field of study
Enrollment status
Sources of financial support
Debt at graduation
Appendix Tables
List of Figures
Presentation Slides

Graduate Enrollment

Enrollment trends

Students with disabilities

Women  top of page

In 1999, 41 percent of the graduate students in S&E fields were women, up from 34 percent in 1990. The number of women enrolled in S&E graduate programs also increased over this time period—rising from 133,737 in 1990 to 168,468 in 1999. (See figure 4-1 figure and appendix table 4-2.) From 1990 to 1999, the number of female graduate students increased in all broad S&E fields, except mathematics, and the percentage of graduate students who are women increased both in science and engineering as a whole and in each broad S&E field. (See figure 4-2 figure.) The number of men enrolled in graduate S&E programs declined during the same time period—dropping from 263,391 in 1990 to 242,840 in 1999. (See appendix table 4-3.)

The percentage of first-time S&E graduate students who are women is also rising. In 1999, 41 percent of full-time first-time S&E graduate students were female, compared to 35 percent in 1990. (See appendix table 4-4.) As much of this increase can be attributed to a decline in the number of men among first-time students as to an increase in the number of women. Male full-time first-time S&E graduate student enrollment dropped 11 percent between 1990 and 1999 (from 49,502 to 44,216). Concurrently, the number of women increased 15 percent—from 27,068 to 31,031.

Minorities  top of page

Across all disciplines, the numbers of Asian and American Indian graduate students increased 1 percent, and the numbers of black and Hispanic graduate students increased 3 percent, between 1998 and 1999.[3] At the same time, the number of white graduate students decreased 2 percent (Syverson 2001).

The numbers of minority graduate students in S&E have increased since 1990. (See figure 4-3 figure.) The number of black S&E graduate students rose from 12,774 in 1990 to 20,341 in 1999, of Hispanics from 10,159 to 16,514, of American Indians from 1,054 to 1,557, and of Asians from 17,155 to 27,562. (See appendix table 4-6.) In contrast, the number of white S&E graduate students dropped over that time period—from 238,465 in 1990 to 216,865 in 1999. As noted in chapter 2, the white college-age population (18- to 24-year-olds) declined from 1990 through 1997.

During the 1990s, the percentage of minority graduate students increased in science and engineering as a whole as well as in each broad S&E field. Asian students increased their representation among all U.S. citizen and permanent resident S&E graduate students from 6 percent in 1990 to 9 percent in 1999, blacks from 4 to 7 percent, Hispanics from 3 to 5 percent, and American Indians from 0.4 to 0.5 percent. Concurrently, the percentage of white graduate students declined from 81 to 72 percent. (See appendix table 4-6.)

Data on the sex of S&E graduate students by race/ethnicity are available only as far back as 1994. For the 5 years for which data are available, the numbers of female S&E graduate students in each racial/ethnic group—except white—increased, as did the numbers of black, Hispanic, and American Indian men. The numbers of white and Asian men in graduate S&E study dropped from 1994 to 1999. (See appendix tables 4-8 and 4-9.)[4]

Students with disabilities  top of page

About 3 percent of graduate students studying in all fields reported a disability in 1996. (See appendix table 4-12.) Graduate students with disabilities are older, on average, than those without disabilities. They are more likely than those without disabilities to be female and more likely than those without disabilities to be black or Hispanic. See appendix A for information on all data sources.[5]


[3]  Data refer to U.S. citizens and permanent residents only.

[4]  For data on graduate enrollment of minority men and women by detailed fields, see

[5]  The source of most of the data in this chapter-the National Science Foundation's Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering, a survey of U.S. academic institutions with graduate S&E departments—does not collect data on students with disabilities. As noted in previous chapters, data on such individuals do not tend to be included in comprehensive institutional records; and, if they are, such information is likely to be kept confidential and used as a means of providing special services to students. The source of the data reported here is the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, a sample survey done by the National Center for Education Statistics of individuals in postsecondary educational institutions. The survey defines students with disabilities as those who reported having one or more of the following conditions: a specific learning disability, a visual handicap, hard of hearing, deafness, a speech disability, an orthopedic handicap, or a health impairment.

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