Report: Black Professionals Are Still Lagging Behind in the Physical Sciences

largeAccording to a newly release report by the American Institute of Physics (AIP) and Statistical Research Center (SRC), Blacks are underrepresented in physical science careers.

“More African-Americans are getting college degrees in all subjects, but this growth is not seen in science and engineering,” said Laura Merner, a principal research associate at AIP and author of the new report. “At current growth rates it would take over 100 years before African-Americans would be equally represented in the physical sciences and engineering.”

Data she collected reflects the lack of diversity in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields. There are many different factors that are attributed to this. Some believe that African- Americans are not exposed to STEM at an early age. Others believe that socio-economic factors and poor educational facilities prevent exposure. The reality is that these factors only scratch the surface.

The researchers looked at the degrees awarded by subject matter. All of the numbers in their report covered only the year 2013. There were 5,500 earth science degrees awarded but only 107 were awarded to Black graduates. For atmospheric sciences, there were 760 degrees awarded in all, but only 21 Black students earned a degree in the field.

For chemistry, the total number of degrees awarded was 14,814 and only 1,072 degrees went to Black students.

  •  Physics 6,725 total,  153 Black students
  • Astronomy 413 total,  5 Black students
  • Oceanography 247 total,  7 Black students

In all of the physical sciences, there were 28,459 and 1,365 went to Black students.  What is hard to believe is that these numbers reflect a positive increase in representation. The numbers were much lower in years past.

“This report shows that African-Americans continue to increase representation among bachelor’s degree earners, however, significant gaps remain in the physical sciences and engineering,” said SRC Director Rachel Ivie.

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