Racial Differences in the Age of Doctoral Degree Recipients in the United States

Data for the annual Survey of Earned Doctorates from the National Science Foundation shows that there are racial and ethnic differences in the age of doctoral degree recipients and the time it took students to complete their doctoral studies.

On average, Whites who earned doctorates in 2021 were 31.4 years old when they received their doctoral degrees. For African Americans, the average age was 36.6. But when we break the figures down by age group, we see more pronounced differences. Whites were far more likely than African Americans to earn a doctorate before the age of 30. More than 45 percent of all Whites who earned doctorates in 2021 were below the age of 30, compared to just 25.4 percent of African Americans.

But African Americans were more likely to earn a doctorate at an older age. For example, 24.7 percent of all Blacks who earned doctorates in 2021 were over the age of 45. For Whites earning doctorates in 2021, only 8.7 percent were over the age of 45.

On average, Whites who received their doctorate in 2021 took 8.6 years to earn their degree from the time they graduated from college. For African Americans who earned doctorates in 2021, it took an average of 12.3 years. In science and engineering fields, the average time to earn a doctorate for Whites after they graduated from college was 7.8 years. For Blacks, the average time to a doctorate in science and engineering fields was 10.2 years.

Whites took an average of 7.0 years to complete their doctorate from the time they enrolled in graduate school. For African Americans, the average was 9.8 years.

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