Fields Where African Americans Earn Few or No Doctoral Degrees

The National Science Foundation recently released its annual data on doctoral degree recipients in the United States. Data for the annual Survey of Earned Doctorates shows that universities in the United States conferred 54,904 doctorates in 2016.

As reported recently in a JBHE post, African Americans earned 2,360 doctoral degrees in 2016. They made up 6.6 percent of all doctoral degrees awarded to students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents of this country.

But Blacks are vastly underrepresented among doctoral degree recipients in some disciplines. For example, African Americans earned only 1.8 percent of all doctorates awarded in physics to U.S. citizens and permanent residents. Blacks earned 3.8 percent of all mathematics and statistics doctorates, 3.7 percent of all doctorates in computer science, and only 4.1 percent of all doctorates awarded in engineering disciplines.

In 2016, according to the National Science Foundation, 1,660 doctorates were awarded in the fields of agricultural economics, fishing and fisheries science, wildlife biology, geophysics and seismology, paleontology, ocean and marine sciences, astronomy, atomic physics, nuclear physics, plasma physics, general physics, logic and topology, neuropsychology, physical and biological anthropology, applied linguistics, French, Italian, German, Latin American languages and literature, European history, and classics. Not one was earned by an African American.

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  1. Jah N Jahnes love.I find it hard to believe that no Black or African American earned Doctoral or Ph.D. degrees in PhysicalBiological Anthropology, French, Italian, German and Latin American languages and literature! I knew folks who were doing their Doctorates in those fields when I was in Grad school during the 1990s. I think that something is wrong. In fact, many Ayiti Grad Students were enrolled in Doctoral Degree programs in French and Latin American language and Literature. We need to do more study of this situation because we certainly have a serious problem here. I for one would like to advocate for a Ph.D. program in Ayiti’s language (better known as Haitian Kreyol/Creole) and Letters and that would certainly encourage more students of Ayiti descent who are black and American to matriculate into those programs and graduate. Blessed love.

  2. I don’t believe the accuracy of this report because in 2016, I, an African American female, earned a PhD in Applied Physics, and received a US Patent for my research in 2017.

  3. Most of those fields are rather useless and I commend African Americans for not being foolish enough to invest time and money earning doctorates in those fields. This country is producing a bunch of poverty-stricken, food-stamp collecting, overeducated doctorates in less than pragmatic fields that end up being adjunct professors, without benefits. It is disheartening that African Americans earned miniscule percentages of doctorates in computer science, mathematics and statistics, and the engineering disciplines. Despite all these programs out here to get African Americans interested in STEM, it just goes to prove the old saying that, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink” is the gospel truth.

    • Hi David, I would love to hear any ideas you may have that could possibly begin to reverse this trend. I guess I am one of those you mentioned, minus the food stamps.

    • My Doctorate is in Business Administration/Marketing which, I was told, is a very hot industry. I have submitted nearly 100 applications in the past year and the only bite I have gotten is what I teach as an adjunct with no benefits – Speech Communication or Public Speaking as a result of my Master’s degree. I have owned and operated two businesses for 21 years, so I know I am qualified to teach Business Marketing. I believe I suffer from racism, sexism, and ageism. But I have no way to prove it. You cannot MAKE Deans hire you. What is the solution?

      • Maybe the rejection arises from prejudice, not against the individual herself, but against the lack of rigor required to take an online PhD.

        • The audacity to belittle online doctoral programs’ rigor based on view over evidence is the prejudice that adults who pursue degrees online will face. Open mind ness should be a trait of the highly educated, yet too often they are stuck in their own prejudices. Many employees are no longer differentiating and traditional degrees from online degrees. Most top tier universities offer some online courses with the same rigor as their on campus courses but do not even mentioned those courses when the degree is presented. In time, these schools will offer doctorates modeled off of the same one you criticize now. I cannot judge all PhDs but I can say that an accredited PhD program will meet the rigor necessary for accreditation and will often be more rigorous than many of the traditional ones. In fact, even within the same university, the rigor of the degree varies.

    • As someone with a degree in math, we have to keep in mind that it is too often that black people go into these programs and do not receive the same supports the white students do so they end up switching programs or quitting school altogether. We don’t talk about the white students who get connects to test answers or the study groups they make and purposely exclude the black student. Too many times black students are put in a position where their confidence is shot and they are made to feel inadequate when really they just did not receive the same “perks”. Once we stop sweeping this fact under the rug and actually make sure black and white students truly have the same experience I’m sure these percentages will increase.

      • “The mean score on the math section of the SAT for all test-takers is 511 out of 800, the average scores for blacks (428) and Latinos (457) are significantly below those of whites (534) and Asians (598). The scores of black and Latino students are clustered towards the bottom of the distribution, while white scores are relatively normally distributed, and Asians are clustered at the top[.]

        Brookings, February 1, 2017

      • Their confidence is shot because they are put in math classes with white and asian students that have an SAT math score 100pts higher than they do. This is well documented. Blacks receive way more support than any other group. They just show up less prepared to bolster “diversity”.

      • Hi Jaz,
        Perfect and exactly correct! We do not receive the same support/perks our white counterparts receive and get discouraged. Studies show that African Americans are still the lowest paid group, even with a Masters degree. Society needs to recognize they are not welcoming to us in all fields, especially the top earning STEM fields.

    • “This country is producing a bunch of poverty-stricken, food-stamp collecting … .”

      What is a bunch? 3? What is legitimate source led you to make such a claim?

    • I suggest that many other factors are at play to produce the results. There is a reason why STEM needs to increase recruitment in Black communities. I wonder what you mean by leading the horse to water (in this case Black PhD’s candidates in science and languages). Were or are there opportunities offered for Black PhD’s that were not taken advantage of? I think not. Probably has more to do with systemic racism and barriers to entry.

  4. To be honest, I don’t feel bad about Black folks not earning degrees in French, Italian, German, or even European history (unless it’s Black European history). I’d much rather see Black people creating and obtaining PhDs related to African cultures and languages, Caribbean cultures and languages (which def. overlaps with Latin American languages and literature), etc. I’d much rather see such programs sprout at HBCUs, too.

    But, I get the disparities highlighted in this report.

  5. I question the statistics and source data used to derive this report as I am the target of this report and other reports that reveal substantive disparities that I find to be inaccurate. As most here are researchers of sort. I believe more data is needed surrounding how this research as conducted.

  6. For the record, I earned a Doctor of Science degree in Cybersecurity and I am an African American man. I imagine this quantitative research study focused on a specific target population, based upon the statistics published here.

    • Funny, I stumbled upon this article looking to find out how many African American doctors in cyber security there was. I don’t need it for my job, but the thought of being in a club of a select few in America intrigues me.

  7. Funny, I stumbled upon this article looking to find out how many African American doctors in cyber security there was. I don’t need it for my job, but the thought of being in a club of a select few in America intrigues me.

  8. I am working on my 5th STEM degree a doctorate in Cybersecurity. I am black and have scored at the top of my class since the age of 5 reading on a college level. I am opening up a math and reading center to help address the disparity of Israelite (black) representation in the STEM disciplines especially IT. All our kids need is a chance when government policies are geared toward their demise. Proven by a white female doctor’s research. We are fighting many wars and must understand how we are being undercut by socioeconomic tactics. Facts!

    • You claim to be working on a fifth degree, but you don’t admit to having earned any degree at all. I am suspicious of your claim.

      Not only have you publicly posted “Proven by a white female doctor’s research,” a sentence fragment, but you have also demonstrated no skill in the proper use of punctuation. You ought to hire an editor.

      Where do black Israelites live these days? I’d like to visit some of those 2500-year-old folks. I really would.

  9. This is not a post just a complaint: You removed my ethnicity. Take me to the land of Black. It doesnt exist. We were gathered from the atea in West Africa marked at the time Negro Land Tribe of Judah (Google it). Who was Judah the fourth son of Jacob the same tribe that Christ came from who was also a so called Black man. His Israelite brethern Barnibus and Simeon were called niger. Biblical fact. Look up his descriptions in Revelation. We are the Israelites of the Bible. Start with Deuteronomy 28:68. If anyone can post falacies such as confessing to be a 6ft tall Chinese woman even though they are a 5 foot tall black man but I can’t post my Biblical nationality that the lord gave us. Sad. Just as in the days of old where we couldn’t call ourselves Jews as referenced in the Bible. Tons of biblical, historical, anthropological, and archeological data the claims

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