The Persisting Racial Gap in Doctoral Degree Awards

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 55,006 doctorates in 2015.

Of these, 2,281, or 4.1 percent, were earned by African Americans. African Americans earned 6.5 percent of all doctoral degrees awarded to students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents of this country. Therefore, African Americans earned about one half the number of doctorates that would be the case if racial parity with the U.S. Black population prevailed.

Another 495 doctorates were awarded by U.S. universities to Black students from foreign nations. The number of doctorates awarded to Black scholars from foreign nations has increased by 35 percent since 2005.

The number of doctorates earned by African Americans in 2015 was up slightly from 2014. Since 2005, the number of African Americans earning doctoral degrees is up 31 percent. But the percentage of all doctoral degree recipients who are African Americans is increasing at only a snail’s pace. In 2005, Blacks were 6.2 percent of all U.S. citizens and permanent residents who earned doctorates. In 2015 the figure was 6.5 percent.

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