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Bullet policy · May 10, 2021

NSF Releases Report on Underrepresented Minorities in Science

On April 29, 2021, the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) released its 2021 Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering report, which provides statistical information about participation levels of underrepresented groups in science and engineering (S&E) education and employment.

The main purpose of this biennial report, according to NCSES, is to “serve as a statistical abstract with no endorsement of or recommendations about policies or programs.” The latest report includes data collected before the COVID-19 pandemic. The next installment of the report, coming out in 2023, will cover the impacts of the pandemic on scientists and engineers and their work.

Highlights from the report include:

  • In 2018, more women were enrolled in college—both in 2-year and 4-year institutions— than men.
  • The share of undergraduate students who were Hispanic or Latino increased from 2016 to 2018 but the shares of both American Indian or Alaska Native students and Black or African American students remained the same.
  • Of all the S&E degrees awarded in 2018, women earned about half of bachelor’s degrees, 45 percent of master’s degrees, and 41 percent of doctorate degrees.
  • Female S&E degree recipients were most prevalent in psychology, biological sciences, and agricultural sciences and the least prevalent in computer sciences and engineering.
  • Both the share and number of S&E degrees awarded to underrepresented minorities, including Hispanics or Latinos, Blacks or African Americans, and American Indians or Alaska Natives, increased over the past decade.
  • In 2018, women from underrepresented minority groups earned more than half of the S&E degrees awarded to their respective racial and ethnic groups at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate levels.
  • Although scientists and engineers in general have higher salaries when working in S&E occupations than in other occupations, female scientists and engineers have lower median salaries compared to their male counterparts in most occupations.
  • Scientists and engineers with one or more disabilities had an unemployment rate greater than that of the U.S. labor force.

“Ensuring accessibility and inclusivity in STEM is essential to cultivate a robust U.S. science and engineering enterprise,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. “This report provides useful information that helps us understand where we are and where we need to go. We must continue to work collaboratively for inclusive change that results in a STEM workforce that reflects the population of our nation.”


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