About this Report
Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering provides statistical information about the participation of women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in science and engineering education and employment. Its primary purpose is to serve as an information source. It offers no endorsement of or recommendations about policies or programs. National Science Foundation reporting on this topic is mandated by the Science and Engineering Equal Opportunities Act (Public Law 96–516).
This digest highlights key statistics drawn from a wide variety of data sources. Data and figures in this digest are organized into six topical areas—enrollment, field of degree, employment status, occupation, academic employment, and persons with disabilities.
Surveys conducted by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) at the National Science Foundation provided a large portion of the data used in this report. NCSES has a central role in the collection, interpretation, analysis, and dissemination of objective data on the science and engineering enterprise.
Women, persons with disabilities, and three racial/ethnic groups—blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians—are considered underrepresented in science and engineering because they constitute smaller percentages of science and engineering degree recipients and of employed scientists and engineers than they do of the population. Asians are not considered underrepresented because they are a larger percentage of science and engineering degree recipients and of employed scientists and engineers than they are of the population. Underrepresentation and overrepresentation of women and racial/ethnic groups may vary by field of study or occupation.
Resident population of the United States, by sex and race/ethnicity: 2010
SOURCE: Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering.
Women were slightly more than half of U.S. residents in 2010. Blacks and Hispanics were 12% and 16%, Asians were 5%, and other racial/ethnic groups combined (American Indians or Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders, multiple race, and other races that are not Hispanic) constituted 3% of the U.S. population in 2010. According to recent Census Bureau projections, minorities will be about half of the resident U.S. population by 2050. The largest growth is projected in the numbers of Hispanics and Asians. Despite increasing numbers, blacks are projected to remain 12% of the population from 2010 to 2050. The number of whites is projected to remain about the same in 2050 as in 2010, and their percentage of the population is projected to decrease.
Hispanic women were the largest group of minority women in the United States in 2010. Hispanic women constituted 8%, black women 6%, and Asian women 3% of the U.S. population. Women of all other minority racial/ethnic groups combined (American Indian or Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, multiple race, and other races that are not Hispanic) were 2% of the U.S. population. White women made up 32% of the U.S. population.
Estimates of the proportion of the population with disabilities vary depending on the definition of the term “disability.” Persons with disabilities may or may not require accommodation, and their disabilities do not necessarily limit their ability to participate in educational experiences or be productive in an occupation. According to the Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey, 12% of the U.S. population has some disability.
Representation of these groups in science and engineering education and employment differs from their representation in the U.S. population. Differences in participation of men and women, various racial/ethnic groups, and persons with and without disabilities are rooted in differences in current and historic participation in science and engineering higher education, as well as differences in educational attainment and in precollege course taking and achievement.
In 1997, to reflect the nation’s increasing diversity, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) revised the federal guidelines for collecting and tabulating data on race/ethnicity to allow individuals the option to self-identify with more than one race. Survey data collected according to these guidelines can be presented in different ways to capture the detailed distributions of race/ethnicity. A detailed discussion of this topic can be found in http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/infbrief/nsf12304/.
The data in this digest come from surveys conducted by the National Science Foundation (National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics), the U.S. Department of Education (National Center for Education Statistics), the U.S. Department of Commerce (Census Bureau), and the U.S. Department of Labor (Bureau of Labor Statistics). The technical notes for this report, provide information on specific data sources, including the survey population, data collection procedures, and sampling errors.
The degree data in this report includes data on people with degrees in science and engineering, including the following fields: astronomy, chemistry, physics, atmospheric sciences, earth sciences, oceanography, mathematics and statistics, computer sciences, agricultural sciences, biological sciences, psychology, social sciences, and engineering. To present data in a condensed form for this digest, several fields were aggregated in figures and in text. The biological sciences field includes agricultural sciences, and the physical sciences field includes earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences. Data on degrees include data on bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees and do not include data on professional degrees, such as the MD or JD.
Racial/ethnic categories reported are generally those mandated by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) effective 1 January 2003. OMB specified the following categories of racial/ethnic groups: black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, white, Hispanic or Latino regardless of race, and more than one race reported. Previously, racial/ethnic groups were identified as white, black, Hispanic, Asian or Pacific Islander, and American Indian or Alaskan Native. In this report the racial/ethnic groups described for enrollment and degree data are designated by the old categories, because the National Center for Education Statistics collected this data under the previous standards through 2008 and gave schools the option of reporting race/ethnicity under either the old or new categories through the 2009–10 data collection cycle for enrollment data and through the 2010–11 data collection cycle for degree data. After these dates, it became mandatory to report under the new racial/ethnic categories (for more details, see the technical notes for this report). Thus, for degree data Asian includes Pacific Islander. For all data in this report, American Indian includes Alaska Native. Degree data by race/ethnicity refer to U.S. citizens and permanent residents only. Because of insufficient sample size in some surveys, not all groups are reported in all tables or figures.
High-Hispanic-enrollment institution. HHEs are academic institutions on the U.S. Department of Education's list of minority-serving institutions with high Hispanic enrollment in 2006. This list includes the institutions of higher education whose full-time equivalent enrollment of undergraduate students is at least 25% Hispanic. See http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/edlite-minorityinst-list-hisp-tab.html.
Historically black college or university. HBCUs are academic institutions on the list maintained by the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges or Universities. The Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, defines an HBCU as "any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans, and that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association determined by the Secretary [of Education] to be a reliable authority as to the quality of training offered or is, according to such an agency or association, making reasonable progress toward accreditation." See http://www.ed.gov/edblogs/whhbcu/one-hundred-and-five-historically-black-colleges-and-universities/.
Minority. A minority is a racial/ethnic group that is a small percentage of the U.S. population. Blacks, Hispanics, American Indians or Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders, and Asians are minority groups.
Scientists and engineers. In this report, persons classified as scientists and engineers are residents of the United States with a baccalaureate degree or higher who were either educated as or are working as a scientist or engineer. A baccalaureate or higher degree is a bachelor's, master's, doctoral, or professional degree.
Tribal college. Tribal colleges are academic institutions that are members of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium and that are included as tribal colleges in the basic classification scheme of the 2005 Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. See http://www.aihec.org/colleges/TCUroster.cfm and http://classifications.carnegiefoundation.org/lookup_listings/standard.php.
Underrepresented minority. This category comprises three racial/ethnic minority groups (blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians or Alaska Native) whose representation in science and engineering is smaller than their representation in the U.S. population.
Key to Acronyms
- HBCU = historically black college or university
- HHE = high Hispanic enrollment
- S&E = science and engineering
- URM = underrepresented minority