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An Overview of the S&E Labor Force
American Indians
Persons With Disabilities

Introduction Up arrow

Equity in the marketplace exists between groups when they have equal opportunity for obtaining comparable positions and salaries. Measuring equity, however, is not simple. In this section, five variables are used as indicators of equity: unemployment rates, underemployment rates, salary, academic rank, and tenure.
Differences between groups on the indicators of equity examined in this chapter are frequently attributable to several interrelated factors. For example, within disciplines, average salaries for women and most of the minority groups are lower than those of whitemen. Is this attributable to wage discrimination or is it an inadvertent consequence of other factors, such as their younger ages, arising from their increasing participation in the S&E labor market? This section presents a variety of statistics examining such issues, although it is not possible to identify, measure, and analyze all the factors that could explain differences among the groups examined.
The statistics presented in this section are often subject to alternate interpretations. For example, women are much more likely to pursue careers in the social sciences than in engineering. Does this denote inequity, different cultural values, or some other unexplored reasons for career choice?
Because new information from two key sources of data on the S&E labor force is currently unavailable (see sidebar), the equity discussion focuses on the segment of the S&E labor force with doctorates from U.S. universities. Although this excludes many individuals of interest from the analysis, it provides an opportunity to focus more completely on this important segment of the population.
The role of women, minorities, and people with disabilities within the academic sector receives special attention within this section. This analysis is important for two reasons. First, 4-year colleges and universities employ 45 percent of doctoral scientists and engineers; they constitute the single largest employer of the S&E doctoral population. (See appendix table 8-8.) Second, academic scientists and engineers provide important role models for young people.

An Overview of the S&E Labor Force Up arrow

The preceding chapters have repeatedly documented three major factors that typically differentiate women from men and minority group members from non-Hispanic whites in the S&E labor force:
Women and minority group members are likely to attain degrees in fields that differ from those selected by nonminority men.
Among those receiving S&E degrees, the proportion who are women and the proportion who belong to minority groups are much higher now than several decades ago.
The percentage of doctoral degrees awarded to foreignborn individuals, most of whom are counted as belonging to minority groups, has been rising.
These educational trends have obvious implications for the S&E labor force:
Women and minority group members often bring a different set of educationally obtained job skills to the marketplace than do men and non-minority group members.
Women and minority group members generally are younger and have less work experience than men and non-minority group members.
Members of racial/ethnic groups vary considerably with respect to nativity (i.e., whether they were born in the United States or in a foreign country).
To the extent that work experience, degree fields, and nativity affect factors commonly used to measure equity, a complete picture of equity requires comparisons of women with men and of racial/ethnic minority group members with non-Hispanic whites having similar characteristics on these factors.
In examining information on people with disabilities, it is vital to note that the incidence of disabilities increases dramatically with age. For example, national statistics show that the incidence of disabilities in the population rises from 5 percent for individuals under 15 years to 18 percent for individuals 15 to 64 years to 54 percent for those 65 years and over (McNeil 1993, p. 5). Thus, examination of equity issues for persons with disabilities requires comparisons of persons with and without disabilities who have similar years of work experience.
A few additional observations about the doctoral S&E labor force in 1991 provide a general context for the discussion to follow:
Doctoral scientists and engineers fared quite well in 1991. Their total unemployment rate was only 1.4 percent, compared with the overall U.S. unemployment rate of 6 percent.
The underemployment rate, defined as being employed part time when a full-time job was preferred or being employed in a non-S&E position when an S&E position was preferred, was 1.7 percent for doctoral scientists and engineers and their median salary was $60,700.
Among S&E doctoral recipients employed in academia, 43 percent were full professors and 68 percent had tenure.
Unemployment and underemployment were associated with degree field and experience level, although the degree fields with high salaries were not always the ones with low unemployment and/or underemployment. (See figures 8-3 and 8-4.)

Figure 8-3 Figure 8-4

Median salaries of doctoral scientists and engineers differed substantially among degree fields (from $55,500 to $70,200). Individuals with degrees in the life sciences, psychology, and the social sciences received relatively low salaries and those with degrees in engineering, the physical sciences, and computer/information sciences received above average salaries. (See figure 8-5.)

Figure 8-5

Median salary is also strongly dependent on years of experience, ranging from $46,000 for doctoral scientists and engineers with less than 5 years of experience to $75,700 for those with 25 or more years of experience. (See figure 8-6.)

Figure 8-6

Median salaries were similar for native-born and foreignborn individuals. (See appendix table 8-14.)
Unemployment and underemployment were not strongly associated with nativity for doctoral scientists and engineers. (See figure 8-10.) The observed differences in unemployment (1.4 percent compared with 1.8 percent) and underemployment (1.6 percent compared with 1.8 percent) were not statistically significant, i.e., they could be attributable to chance fluctuations due to sampling error.

Figure 8-10

Academic rank and tenure are srongly related to years of professional work experience. For example, 56 percent of doctoral scientists and engineers employed in 4-year colleges and universities with 8 or more years of professional work experience were full professors,compared with 2 percent of those with fewer than 8 years of experience. Similarly, 84 percent of those who had 8 or more years of professional work experience were tenured, compared with 16 percent who had fewer than 8 years of work experience. (See figures 8-7 and 8-8.)

Figure 7-7 Figure 7-8

Foreign-born doctoral scientists and engineers are less likely to be full professors or have tenure. (See appendix tables 8-17 and 8-18.) Among the native-born, 44 percent are full professors and 70 percent are tenured. The corresponding figures for the foreign-born are 38 percent and 60 percent.
Clearly, differences among subpopulation groups with respect to degree fields and years of professional work experience are likely to explain at least some of the differences in the indicators of equity used in this chapter. The following analyses will accordingly compare individuals with similar degree fields and years of professional work experience to the extent feasible.
It is less clear that nativity is an important explanatory factor of differences in career outcomes within the doctoral population. However, it is possible that the similarities between native-born and foreign-born individuals are not as great as the statistics seem to indicate. Most important, the upsurge in immigration among those seeking graduate education has resulted in the immigrant doctoral population being younger than the native-born population; 52 percent of the native-born doctoral S&E labor force have under 15 years of professional work experience compared with 63 percent of the foreign-born.
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