Major Shortfall in Doctorates to African Americans in the Natural Sciences

New data from the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago shows a persisting shortfall in Ph.D. awards to African Americans. In 2006, 13.1 percent of doctorates awarded to whites were in the physical sciences. This is nearly triple the percentage for African Americans, which stood at 4.4 percent in 2006.

The very large racial Ph.D. gap in the natural sciences is striking when we examine black Ph.D. awards in specific disciplines. African Americans earned only 16 doctorates in mathematics. This was just 1.2 percent of all doctorates awarded in the field by U.S. universities.

In a major weakness, blacks earned only 12 degrees, or about 0.9 percent, of the more than 1,300 doctorates in physics. In computer science, blacks won 1 percent of all Ph.D. awards. In chemistry, only 1.2 percent of Ph.D.s went to blacks. In 2006, 133 African Americans were awarded a Ph.D. in the biological sciences. But they were only 2.0 percent of all doctorates awarded in the discipline.