- Demographic Shifts
- Opportunities to Learn and Decisions to Study Science, Mathematics, and
- Achievement and Accomplishments
The diversity of the U.S. population is increasing. Different fertility rates,
immigration patterns, and age distributions (and thus death rates) of population
subgroups suggest that the 21st century population profile will contrast sharply
with that of the 20th.  Around the year 2030 the total elementary school-aged
cohort of the United States could be about equally divided between whites and all
other racial/ethnic groups combined. Over the following 20 years, blacks, Asians,
Hispanics of all races, and American Indians would together outnumber the total
white population of elementary school children.
Racial/ethnic group membership is less closely related to student achievement than
factors related to family resources/support, school characteristics, and student
opportunity to learn. Examination of several variables at the secondary school
level identified factors correlated with student achievement. For eighth grade
student populations, factors making the greatest difference were:
- parents' expectations about student educational attainment;
- learning materials made available by parents;
- the socioeconomic status of students in the school;
- whether students place a priority on learning;
- teacher ability to motivate students;
- students' educational aspirations; and
- courses students take in school.
Educational expectations differ across racial/ethnic groups: In 1990, 31 percent
of white and 30 percent of Asian 10th graders expected to graduate from college - a
requirement for almost any science or mathematics career. Only 26 percent of
black, 23 percent of Hispanic, and 19 percent of American Indian students expected
to complete a college education. Almost 11 percent of Asian eighth grade students
in 1988 said they expected to be a science or engineering professional when they
were 30 years old. In comparison, 7 percent of whites and 5 percent of Hispanic
and black students said they thought they would have a career in science or
Advanced science and mathematics courses are essential to preparation for
collegiate science and mathematics. Among 12th grade students in 1992, there were
substantial differences in the proportions of students who had taken 8 or more
semesters of mathematics classes in high school: 44 percent of whites; 32 percent
of blacks; 30 percent of Hispanics; 28 percent of American Indians; and 64 percent
Differences in course-taking also characterized students planning to attend
college. Among those students who took the SAT, in 1993, more than 88 percent of
Asians and 84 percent of whites took chemistry in high school; roughly
three-quarters of each of the underrepresented groups took chemistry. The biggest
difference was in physics: 64 percent of Asians took physics, compared with 45
percent of whites, 43 percent of Latin Americans, and less than 40 percent of all
Tracking of students in advanced science and mathematics classes may make
participation in these fields more difficult. A study of courses taken and
placements for students with high expectations for themselves regarding college
attendance and career goals revealed that half of the underrepresented minorities,
compared with 20 percent of whites and Asians, were not enrolled in courses that
would permit them to complete the expected sequence of courses needed to enter
Two-year institutions have been particularly important in providing access to
higher education for traditionally underrepresented groups of students. Two-year
colleges enroll almost half of the students entering higher education as
first-year students; they enroll slightly more than half (52 percent) of students
from underrepresented minority groups entering college.
Although the number of students enrolled full-time at 2-year institutions rose by
22 percent from 1980 to 1991, the number of students from underrepresented
minority groups enrolled as full-time students increased 28 percent. The
differences for part-time students were more dramatic: part-time enrollment
overall rose 30 percent between 1980 and 1991, while part-time enrollment of
underrepresented minorities rose 59 percent.
Enrollment of minorities in 4-year institutions has increased. For
underrepresented minorities, the increase in full-time enrollment between 1981 and
1991 was 30 percent. Among first-year students, enrollment of whites decreased;
enrollment of blacks and American Indians fluctuated, ending slightly higher in
1991 than in 1980; and enrollment of Asians and Hispanics increased.
Higher Education Role Models
Low proportions of faculty teaching undergraduates are from underrepresented
minorities in six science and engineering fields included in a study of
undergraduate education: civil, mechanical, and electrical engineering; and
sociology, geology, and physics. Proportions varied from a high of 8 percent for
black faculty in sociology, to a low of less than one-half of 1 percent in any of
the six fields for American Indians.
Sixteen percent of U.S. citizens enrolled in graduate science and engineering
programs in 1992 were minorities. Blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians
continued to be seriously underrepresented, comprising 9 percent of the total
enrollment in graduate science and engineering programs.
Asian students' levels of achievement in mathematics and science are higher than
those of students from any other racial/ethnic group, including whites. In
mathematics, Asian students had higher average proficiency levels than whites and
other minorities at grades 4, 8, and 12. On a scale rating proficiency levels
between a basic level of 200 and the most advanced level of 350, at the 12th grade
level Asians averaged 315; whites, 305; Hispanics, 283; American Indians 281; and
blacks, 275. In science, proficiency levels at grade 12 were distributed in
similar fashion: Asians averaged 308; whites, 303; American Indians, 286;
Hispanics, 273; and blacks, 256.
Transition to Higher Education
On the mathematics component of the SAT, the scores of every racial/ethnic group
improved over the decade from 1983 to 1993. The relative standing of the
racial/ethnic groups did not change. In 1993, Asians continued to have the
highest average mathematics SAT scores, followed by whites and American Indians,
Latin Americans, Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, and blacks. During the decade,
American Indians achieved the highest increase in mathematics scores of any
racial/ethnic group, rising 22 points. Asians' scores increased by 21 points and
blacks' increased by 19 points.
Attrition From Higher Education
Attrition from higher education appears to be greater for minority students.
Comparison of enrollment profiles for cohorts enrolled in lower division and upper
division  show differential declines in the size of cohorts enrolled from
different racial/ethnic groups. Comparing across a 2-year period, the losses in
numbers of students enrolled were approximately 40 percent of blacks, 25 percent
of Hispanics, and 20 percent of American Indians, compared with 15 percent of
whites and 3 percent of Asians.
Minorities earned 17 percent of bachelor's degrees in science and engineering in
1991. Underrepresented minorities - blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians - earned
the same proportion of science and engineering degrees that they earned of
non-science and engineering degrees, 11 percent, in 1991. These proportions were
virtually unchanged from 10 years earlier.
Between 1981 and 1991, the number of bachelor's degrees earned by underrepresented
minorities in non-science and engineering fields increased 34 percent, compared
with an increase in science and engineering of 8 percent.
Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU's) continue to play an
important role in the undergraduate education of blacks, despite the growing
diversity of the Nation's campuses. Twenty-eight percent of the black students
receiving bachelor's degrees in science and engineering in 1991 received their
degrees from an HBCU. Half of the 26 institutions that awarded the largest number
of science bachelor's degrees to black men were HBCU's; 15 of the top 25
institutions awarding science bachelor's degrees to black women were HBCU's. In
engineering, HBCU's comprised 12 of the top 26 institutions for black men and 8 of
the top 25 institutions for black women.
Minorities earned 12 percent of master's degrees in science and engineering in
1991, compared with 11 percent in 1981. The increase was primarily due to
substantial increases in the number of awards to Asians, with only slight
increases in awards to underrepresented minorities.
Minorities who were U.S. citizens earned 10 percent of the total doctorates
awarded to U.S. citizens in 1992, up from 9 percent of the total in 1982. Within
racial/ethnic groups, there were gender differences. Increases occurred in
numbers of awards to both men and women except for whites and American Indians;
doctorates in science and engineering to men decreased and awards to women
increased for these groups. For all of the underrepresented minorities, the
numbers of science and engineering doctorate recipients in 1992 were very small:
300 blacks, 414 Hispanics, and 69 American Indians.
Employment Levels and Trends
Racial/ethnic minorities constituted 22 percent of the total civilian labor force
in 1990; they were 14 percent of the science and engineering labor force in 1990.
Underrepresented minorities were 19 percent of the total labor force and 8 percent
of the science and engineering labor force. Asians were 3 percent of the labor
force and 6 percent of the science and engineering labor force.
- Asians are well represented in the science and engineering labor force and there
is little difference in terms of unemployment, underemployment, median salary,
academic rank, and tenure career success between Asian and white doctoral
scientists and engineers with similar degree fields and years of professional work
- Hispanics remain underrepresented in the science and engineering labor force,
with limited progress during the last decade. While Hispanic and white doctoral
scientists and engineers were similar on unemployment and underemployment,
Hispanics were not comparable to whites in terms of salary, academic rank, and
- Blacks continue to be underrepresented in the science and engineering labor
force, although they demonstrated significant progress during the decade from 1980
to 1990. However, black doctoral scientists and engineers do not share equally
with whites in terms of salary, academic rank, and tenure.
- Limited statistics available on American Indians in the labor force suggest that
they are underrepresented in science and engineering and that American Indian
doctoral scientists and engineers have salaries somewhat below those of whites.
2. Topics covered in this report are presented for five racial/ethnic groups:
white, black, Hispanic, Asian, and American Indian. The term "minority" includes
all groups other than white; "underrepresented minorities" includes three groups
whose representation in science and engineering is less than their representation
in the population: blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians.
3. Using "middle series" population projections from the Bureau of the Census.
See Day, Jennifer Cheeseman. 1993. Population Projections of the United States,
by Age, Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin: 1993 to 2050. Bureau of the Census,
Current Population Reports, P25-1104. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of
4. Placement in a division depends on numbers of credits earned toward the
baccalaureate; lower-division students generally have fewer than half the number
needed to graduate; upper-division students, one-half or more.