Fields Where African Americans Earn Few or No Doctoral Degrees

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 54,904 doctorates in 2016.

As reported recently in a JBHE post, African Americans earned 2,360 doctoral degrees in 2016. They made up 6.6 percent of all doctoral degrees awarded to students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents of this country.

But Blacks are vastly underrepresented among doctoral degree recipients in some disciplines. For example, African Americans earned only 1.8 percent of all doctorates awarded in physics to U.S. citizens and permanent residents. Blacks earned 3.8 percent of all mathematics and statistics doctorates, 3.7 percent of all doctorates in computer science, and only 4.1 percent of all doctorates awarded in engineering disciplines.

In 2016, according to the National Science Foundation, 1,660 doctorates were awarded in the fields of agricultural economics, fishing and fisheries science, wildlife biology, geophysics and seismology, paleontology, ocean and marine sciences, astronomy, atomic physics, nuclear physics, plasma physics, general physics, logic and topology, neuropsychology, physical and biological anthropology, applied linguistics, French, Italian, German, Latin American languages and literature, European history, and classics. Not one was earned by an African American.

Comments (8)

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  1. Marie Nadine Pierre says:

    Jah N Jahnes love.I find it hard to believe that no Black or African American earned Doctoral or Ph.D. degrees in PhysicalBiological Anthropology, French, Italian, German and Latin American languages and literature! I knew folks who were doing their Doctorates in those fields when I was in Grad school during the 1990s. I think that something is wrong. In fact, many Ayiti Grad Students were enrolled in Doctoral Degree programs in French and Latin American language and Literature. We need to do more study of this situation because we certainly have a serious problem here. I for one would like to advocate for a Ph.D. program in Ayiti’s language (better known as Haitian Kreyol/Creole) and Letters and that would certainly encourage more students of Ayiti descent who are black and American to matriculate into those programs and graduate. Blessed love.

  2. Sherita Moses says:

    I don’t believe the accuracy of this report because in 2016, I, an African American female, earned a PhD in Applied Physics, and received a US Patent for my research in 2017.

    • Editor says:

      We are simply reporting figures compiled by the National Science Foundation. Perhaps your degree was listed among those in a different field of physics.

    • Ikp says:

      Well Sherits Moses. Clearly your major was not English because Applied Physics was not listed…

  3. David B. says:

    Most of those fields are rather useless and I commend African Americans for not being foolish enough to invest time and money earning doctorates in those fields. This country is producing a bunch of poverty-stricken, food-stamp collecting, overeducated doctorates in less than pragmatic fields that end up being adjunct professors, without benefits. It is disheartening that African Americans earned miniscule percentages of doctorates in computer science, mathematics and statistics, and the engineering disciplines. Despite all these programs out here to get African Americans interested in STEM, it just goes to prove the old saying that, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink” is the gospel truth.

    • Reginald V. Finley Sr says:

      Hi David, I would love to hear any ideas you may have that could possibly begin to reverse this trend. I guess I am one of those you mentioned, minus the food stamps.

    • Dr. Joan Cartwright says:

      My Doctorate is in Business Administration/Marketing which, I was told, is a very hot industry. I have submitted nearly 100 applications in the past year and the only bite I have gotten is what I teach as an adjunct with no benefits – Speech Communication or Public Speaking as a result of my Master’s degree. I have owned and operated two businesses for 21 years, so I know I am qualified to teach Business Marketing. I believe I suffer from racism, sexism, and ageism. But I have no way to prove it. You cannot MAKE Deans hire you. What is the solution?

  4. J. Ama says:

    To be honest, I don’t feel bad about Black folks not earning degrees in French, Italian, German, or even European history (unless it’s Black European history). I’d much rather see Black people creating and obtaining PhDs related to African cultures and languages, Caribbean cultures and languages (which def. overlaps with Latin American languages and literature), etc. I’d much rather see such programs sprout at HBCUs, too.

    But, I get the disparities highlighted in this report.

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