Doctoral Degrees for African Americans Hold Steady Despite the Pandemic

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. This is about half the percentage that would exist if racial parity in doctoral awards was achieved.

Of the 2,458 African Americans who earned doctorates from U.S. universities in 2020, 1,540 were women. Thus, women earned 62.3 percent of all doctorates awarded to African Americans in 2020. However, the number of African American men who earned doctorates in 2020 was up nearly 3 percent from 2019, while the number of African American women who earned doctorates was down by nearly 5 percent.

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