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Population Groups

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.
Persons with Disabilities

GenderUp arrow

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.

Race/EthnicityUp arrow

Racial/ethnic minorities currently constitute 20 percent of the total population. [1] 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.
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.

Figure 1-1

Of the four population groups that constitute minorities in the population, [2] 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.)

Figure 1-2a
Figure 1-2b
Figure 1-3a
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 areas.

Figure 1-4

Persons With DisabilitiesUp arrow

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 population. [3]
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, p. vii).
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 reducing underrepresentation.
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 identification. Up arrow

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. Up arrow

3. For a discussion of the data problems in describing the population with disabilities, see McNeil 1993a, 1993b. Up arrow

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