Academic Fields Where No African Americans Earned Doctorates in 2020

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 55,283 doctorates in 2020, down just slightly from 2019. Of these, 3,095 were earned by Black students, up slightly from the previous year. But more than one fifth of all doctorates earned by Black students at U.S. universities went to foreign students.

If we restrict the data to U.S. citizens and permanent residents of this country, we find that 2,458 African Americans earned doctorates from U.S. universities in 2020. This was down slightly from 2019. African Americans earned 7.1 percent of all doctorates awarded to U.S. citizens or permanent residents of this country.

But if we break the data down by specific discipline, we find huge disparities in some broad fields and specific disciplines. For example, African Americans earned just 2.1 percent of all doctorates awarded to U.S. citizens and permanent residents in the physical and earth sciences and 3.2 percent of all doctorates in mathematics and computer science.

In 2020, 1,384 doctorates were awarded in the fields of fisheries science, wildlife and range management, atmospheric physics, geochemistry, marine biology, astrophysics, nuclear physics, plasma physics, geometry, number theory, physical and biological anthropology, applied linguistics, German, European history, Latin American history, classics, and music theory.

Not one went to an African American

JBHE has published a similar list of fields where no African Americans have earned doctorates for many years. The good news is that, unlike many prior years, there are some African Americans who have earned doctorates in astronomy, most physics disciplines, most chemistry disciplines, most mathematics fields, and most areas of engineering. The racial gap in doctoral awards in many fields remains large, but progress is being made, albeit at a very slow rate.

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