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Valuable Snapshots

Racial/ethnic groups within the population change size, both absolutely and relative to other groups (Olivas 1992). And within groups of interest, important variations may occur within subpopulations that are masked by conventions in data collection categories (Raya 1994). As a result, many instruments used to collect data are blunt for the purposes of this report.
The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) asks test-takers to report their ethnic backgrounds and provides three categories for persons to report Hispanic ethnicity: "Mexican American," "Puerto Rican," and "Other Hispanic." (See appendix table 6-30.) These data provide an opportunity to explore intragroup characteristics that are often impossible to analyze with other data sets and to highlight differences that would normally be concealed within a single data category.
For example, the percentage changes between 1982 and 1992 in the total number of GRE test-takers in the three subpopulations are quite different: more than 200 percent for "Other Hispanic," 118 percent for Mexican Americans, and 62 percent for Puerto Ricans.
In terms of intended areas of graduate study, the three subgroups display different patterns. (See figure 6-14.) Mexican Americans, for example, have traditionally shown greater levels of interest in studying education at the graduate level, though this interest has declined somewhat as indicated by GRE test-taking. Interest in the biological sciences was highest among Puerto Ricans in 1982 but had fallen precipitously by 1992. The percentage of GRE test-takers who intended to continue into graduate engineering study had increased in all three groups by 1992.

Figure 6-14

Data on GRE test-takers do not necessarily provide a complete picture, but they do indicate aspirations for study at the highest levels of U.S. higher education and in which broad fields the aspiring examinees are interested. Despite changes in the mix of broad fields of interest, the GRE data show that in 1992 versus 1982, greater numbers of U.S. citizens identifying themselves as ethnically Hispanic hoped to study science and engineering at the highest levels. In 1982, 952 test-takers identified themselves in one of these three ethnic categories and identified the social sciences, biological sciences, physical sciences, or engineering as their intended area of study. (See appendix table 6-29.) By 1992, the corresponding number had grown to 2,205, more than a twofold increase over the decade.

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