Where data permit, topics of educational and workforce participation and
achievement are addressed by gender, race/ethnicity, and type of disability. These
partitions are of different types: the number of variables describing each group
differs, as do their relative sizes and changing sizes over time. However, they
are similar in a critically important way-they divide the total population into
groups that map historic underrepresentation in science and engineering.
Women constitute approximately half of the population and about 46 percent of the
labor force in all occupations, 22 percent in science and engineering occupations.
They are 9 percent of the engineers, but about 50 percent of the social
scientists. (See text table 1-1.) Their participation in employment reflects, in
part, participation in levels and subject fields in the educational system.
Racial/ethnic minorities currently constitute 20 percent of the total
population.  Blacks are 12 percent of the total population; American Indians,
less than 1 percent; Asians, almost 3 percent; and Hispanics, about 9 percent.
These minorities make up 22 percent of the total labor force; they were 14 percent
of the science and engineering labor force in 1990. Underrepresented
minorities-blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians-are 19 percent of the total
labor force, 8 percent of the science and engineering labor force. Asians are 3
percent of the labor force, 6 percent of the science and engineering labor force.
- Persons with Disabilities
The racial and ethnic diversity of the population is increasing through births and
immigration. Each racial/ethnic group itself is composed of many distinct
populations. For example, the Hispanic and Asian populations each include many
population subgroups. (See figure 1-1.) Most data sources do not collect
information at this level of detail.
Of the four population groups that constitute minorities in the population, 
three-black, Hispanic, and American Indian-are underrepresented in science and
engineering. The term "underrepresented minorities" is used in this report to
signify these groups. The fourth minority group-Asian/Pacific Islander-has
representation in most science and engineering fields that exceeds its proportion
in the population. An examination of the population overall and of the
participation of different groups in different stages of the educational process
and workforce points out areas where some groups are significantly
underrepresented. (See text table 1-2.)
A descriptive variable of considerable significance in discussing race/ethnicity
is geography. The minority population is unevenly distributed across the Nation.
(See figure 1-2a and figure 1-2b.) Although high numbers of minority groups may simply reflect the
concentrations of total populations in certain States, variation also occurs in
proportions of the populations of minorities within particular States. Individual
States have minority populations that vary from less than 5 percent to more than
60 percent. (See figure 1-3a and figure 1-3b.)
Another important variable to consider in examining racial/ethnic populations is
their distribution by type of metropolitan area. (See figure 1-4.) Asians and
Hispanics are more likely to live in urban areas; American Indians, in rural
Estimates of the proportion of the population with disabilities vary greatly.
About 20 percent of the population have disabilities, including severe and not
severe disabilities. (See text table 1-3.) These disabilities may or may not
require accommodation or limit an individual's ability to participate in
educational experiences or to be productive in an occupation; these factors
account for some of the variability in estimates of the size of this
Even using conservative estimates, persons with disabilities are underrepresented
in the workforce. Approximately 10 percent of the total labor force, and 3
percent of the science and engineering labor force, have some disability.
Work disability affects participation in the labor force, which includes employed
persons and those who are unemployed and looking for work (U.S. Department of
Commerce, Bureau of the Census 1988, table F). In 1988, in all occupations
combined, science and engineering plus other fields, only 36 percent of men and 28
percent of women with a work disability were in the labor force, compared with 89
and 70 percent of men and women, respectively, with no work disability. Those
with a work disability were much more likely to be unemployed, with unemployment
rates for men and women of 14 percent each, compared with rates of 6 and 5 percent
for those without disabilities. This underrepresentation probably also reflects
underrepresentation in the educational system.
Examination of the population of persons with disabilities is complicated by
factors beyond the data limitations described in the Technical Notes. Efforts
have been made in many data collections to include an indication of the range of
disabilities. (See text tables 1-3 and 1-4.) This factor is probably responsible
to some extent for the variation in estimates of percentages of the population in
science and engineering who have disabilities (National Science Foundation 1990,
The three demographic categories-gender, race/ethnicity, and disability-also
interact. Questions have arisen as to whether membership in more than one of the
underrepresented groups places a person in a situation of double jeopardy. This
report, therefore, offers some data on how well people who are both female and
members of underrepresented racial/ethnic minorities are faring in the educational
system and the workplace. It also includes some data on gender and race/ethnicity
for the population of persons with disabilities.
This report examines many variables that are related to underrepresentation.
These variables include societal and institutional factors that can be changed.
The data, therefore, in some cases identify factors that could be instrumental in
1. In the total population, the Hispanic population is counted by the Bureau
of the Census both under the ethnicity category of Hispanic and under the
applicable racial/ethnic group. Other data collections used in this report
include all Hispanic persons in only that category, regardless of their racial
2. In accordance with Office of Management and Budget guidelines, the
racial/ethnic groups described in this report will be identified as white,
non-Hispanic; black, non-Hispanic; Hispanic; Asian or Pacific Islander; and
American Indian or Alaskan Native. In text and figure references, these groups
will be referred to as white, black, Hispanic, Asian, and American Indian. In
instances where data collection permits, subgroups of the Hispanic population will
be identified by subgroup name.
3. For a discussion of the data problems in describing the population with
disabilities, see McNeil 1993a, 1993b.