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Press Release 11-043
Share of Black S&E Degrees from HBCUs Declines in 2008

NSF report charts participation of women, minorities and persons with disabilities in science and engineering

Photo of two female African American students holding an open book.

HBCUs awarded 20 percent of all bachelor's degrees earned by blacks in S&E programs in 2008
Credit and Larger Version

February 28, 2011

More than 45 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, National Science Foundation (NSF) statistics show minority academic institutions still enroll a substantial number of minority students, but the percentage of minorities earning bachelor's degrees in science and engineering (S&E) from minority-serving institutions has declined over time.

Statistics published today in a report titled "Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering: 2011" show that 26 percent of blacks earned S&E bachelor's degrees from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in 2000, while only 20 percent earned them from HBCUs in 2008.

Published by NSF's National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES), formerly the Division of Science Resources Statistics, the report charts the participation of women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in science and engineering education and employment.

According to the report's findings, underrepresented minorities--blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians--are less likely than whites to attend college or to graduate. About 53 percent of blacks and 35 percent of Hispanics versus 68 percent of whites attend college, while 19 percent of blacks and 12 percent of Hispanics versus 37 percent of whites graduate.

But for those underrepresented minorities who do graduate, the degree patterns are similar to those of whites.  In fact, the shares of S&E bachelor's and master's degrees for underrepresented minorities have been rising for two decades since 1989.

For example, underrepresented minorities received 10 percent of S&E bachelor's degrees in 1989 compared to 17 percent in 2008.

Underrepresented minorities' participation in social-behavioral, computer and medical-other life sciences has increased faster than in other S&E fields.

The participation of blacks is substantially lower in S&E occupations, as well as in all professional and related science occupations than it is in the U.S. workforce as a whole. Blacks, who are about 12 percent of the U.S. population, make up only about 3 percent of all U.S. scientists and engineers. Moreover, they are a smaller percentage of engineers than they are of scientists.

Meanwhile, the share of full-time full S&E professorships held by underrepresented minorities has risen more slowly than the share held by women and has remained fairly flat in recent years.

Underrepresented minority women, who hold faculty positions, are less likely to have received federal grants or contracts than underrepresented minority men and women of other racial and ethnic groups.

This report is available online through the NCSES homepage of the National Science Foundation's website.

NSF supports all fields of fundamental science and engineering, except for medical sciences, by funding the research of scientists, engineers and educators directly through their own home institutions, typically universities and colleges.

-NSF-

Media Contacts
Bobbie Mixon, NSF, (703) 292-8485, bmixon@nsf.gov

Program Contacts
Joan S. Burrelli, NSF, (703) 292-7793, jburrell@nsf.gov

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2014, its budget is $7.2 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 50,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $593 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

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