Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Lack of Diversity Persists Among Ph.D. Recipients, Study Says

May 25, 2005
Lack of Diversity Persists Among Ph.D. Recipients, Study Says

As universities try to add more black and Hispanic professors to their faculties in the coming years, they will find they are limited by the lack of diversity among graduate students, according to a new study by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.

The study, which is being released this week, said that only 7 percent of Ph.D. recipients in 2003 were black or Hispanic, while nearly a third of all Americans in the age group typically awarded the degrees were.

"The Ph.D.'s who lead the way in the world of thought and discovery are far more monochromatic than the population," Robert Weisbuch, the foundation's president, wrote in the precede to the report, "Diversity and the Ph.D."

He said that though roughly one in four Americans are black or Hispanic, members of those minority groups were earning just one Ph.D. of every nine granted.

Though there has been some increase in the percentage of minority Ph.D. students, he said, "the fact remains that doctoral programs have made significantly less progress in diversifying than have business and government."

The study comes as Harvard and many other leading universities have been criticized for the lack of diversity in their faculties, and have pledged to try to do better. Many have succeeded in drawing more black and Hispanic students, but without offering them many role models in the classroom.

The Woodrow Wilson study suggests that increasing diversity on faculties will become all the more difficult because financial support for minority students in Ph.D. programs is shrinking.

One reason is that some programs meant to foster graduate student diversity have pulled back. In the face of legal challenges, programs once aimed at minorities have opened their doors to other students.

Another problem, the report said, is that many of the black and Hispanic students who do earn Ph.D.'s tend to specialize in certain areas, like education. So while blacks made up 6.6 percent of the Americans awarded Ph.D.'s in 2003, they made up 14 percent of all students who received Ph.D.'s in education. At the same time, fewer than 4 percent of the Ph.D.'s in engineering, in the physical and life sciences and in humanities that year went to blacks.

Hispanic students, however, were spread somewhat more evenly across the disciplines, earning 4.9 percent of all Ph.D.'s awarded to Americans in 2003, and 4.7 percent of those degrees in the arts and sciences.

The study did find that the number of black and Hispanic students earning doctorates had grown in the last 20 years. The study reported that 1,708 blacks earned Ph.D.'s in 2003, up from 925 two decades earlier, an 85 percent increase. In 1983, fewer than 4 percent of all Ph.D.'s earned by Americans went to blacks, compared with the 6.6 percent in 2003.

Similarly, the number of Hispanics earning Ph.D.'s grew to 1,270 in 2003 from only 542 two decades earlier. And their share of the Ph.D.'s granted grew to 4.9 percent in 2003, from 2.3 percent in 1983.

The study also noted that there were very few American Indians in doctoral programs; they earned 133 of 26,000 Ph.D.'s given to Americans in 2003. In contrast, Asian-Americans received 5.2 percent of the Ph.D.'s awarded that year, though they represented 4.1 percent of the population.

Data in the report were drawn from a larger study, Doctorate Recipients From United States Universities: Summary Report 2003, which was based on the Survey of Earned Doctorates published by the University of Chicago in 2004.

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