The representation of certain groups of people in science and engineering (S&E) education and employment differs from their representation in the U.S. population. Women, persons with disabilities, and three racial and ethnic groups—blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians or Alaska Natives—are underrepresented in S&E. While women have reached parity with men among S&E degree recipients overall, they constitute disproportionally smaller percentages of employed scientists and engineers than they do of the U.S. population. Blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians or Alaska Natives have gradually increased their share of S&E degrees, but they remain underrepresented in educational attainment and the S&E workforce. By contrast, Asians are overrepresented among S&E degree recipients and employed scientists and engineers.
Underrepresentation and overrepresentation of women and racial or ethnic groups vary by field of study and occupation. Variations in the representation of these groups are rooted in differences in precollege course taking, participation in S&E higher education, and overall educational attainment.
Women and underrepresented minorities constituted a substantial portion of the U.S. population ages 18 to 64 years in 2014. Women were about 50% of this population; Hispanics, 17%; blacks, 13%; Asians, 6%; and other racial and ethnic groups combined (American Indians or Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders, and individuals who report more than one race and are not Hispanic), 2%. According to the latest Census Bureau projections, minorities will account for 56% of the U.S. population by 2060. The largest growth is projected in the numbers of Hispanics, Asians, and persons of multiple races. Despite increasing numbers, the proportion of blacks is projected to grow only 1 percentage point by 2060.
Noninstitutionalized resident population of the United States ages 18–64, by race, ethnicity, and sex: 2014
Hispanic women were the largest group of minority women ages 18 to 64 years in the United States in 2014, constituting 8% of the overall population in this age group. Black women constituted 7% of this population; Asian women, 3%; women of all other minority racial and ethnic groups combined, 1%; and white women, 31%.
Estimates of the proportion of the population with disabilities vary depending on the definition of the term "disability." According to the Census Bureau's 2014 American Community Survey, 13% of the U.S. population has some disability; this population varies by age. Disabilities do not necessarily limit a person's ability to participate in educational experiences or to be productive in an occupation. Persons with disabilities may or may not require special accommodation to enable them to succeed in school or at work.