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New Findings on Latinas as STEM PhD Earners

Data

We analyzed national data to explore STEM doctoral pathways among Latinas. First, we used the American Community Survey (ACS) to examine womens educational pathways from elementary school enrollment to doctoral degrees by five racial groups (Latinas, African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Whites). The ACS includes census data collected annually and information about educational attainment in the United States. The ACS is a vital tool used by community stakeholders to gather information about population dynamics in communities (U.S. Census Bureau, 2019).

Second, to present the number of Latinas who earned degrees by STEM disciplines at the associates, bachelors, and master’s levels, we analyzed data from the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES, 2011, 2019a, 2019b). These data include information from a compilation of NCSES surveys that are used to report the characteristics of women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in science and engineering. Finally, we analyze data from the Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED). We limit our analysis of SED data to Latinas who were US citizens or permanent residents. For our analysis of SED, we define STEM fields as including computer information sciences, engineering, life sciences, math, and physical sciences (NORC, 2012).

Educational Pathways

Informed by prior literature, we begin by updating a previous snapshot on the Latina educational pipeline to the PhD—for all academic fields. Figure 3.1 demonstrates that Latinas navigate an inequitable educational system. Many high schools fail to graduate Latina students at similar levels as other groups—especially White women—and the pathway to the PhD continues to narrow as Latinas enter and move through the higher education system. In 2000, Latinas had the lowest high school graduation rates compared to African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Whites as a legacy of public schools marginalizing Latina and Latino students (Perez

Latinas’ Attainment Rates at Each Stage of the US Female Pathway to the PhD

Figure 3.1 Latinas’ Attainment Rates at Each Stage of the US Female Pathway to the PhD.

Source: US Bureau of the Census, 2006—2010 population estimates from the American Community Survey. The five-year estimates are the best source of national demographics between the decennial census.

Note: Figure organized in the format previously used by Perez Huber et al. (2006) and Watford et al. (2006).

Huber, Huidor, Malagon, Sanchez, & Solorzano, 200ft). One decade later, Latinas were still the least likely racial group to graduate from high school. For every 100 students who entered the US educational system, fewer Latinas graduated from college than African American, Asian American, and

Table 3.1 Number of Latinas Who Earned STEM Degrees by Field and Degree Level.

STEM Field

Associate’s

Bachelor’s

Master’s

Agricultural Sciences

36

573

122

Biological Sciences

357

4,356

319

Computer Sciences

759

590

159

Earth, Atmospheric, & Ocean Sciences

3

127

33

Mathematics and Statistics

81

411

56

Physical Sciences

145

563

65

Astronomy

N/A

15

2

Physics

N/A

49

12

Chemistry

N/A

484

47

Engineering

55

1,346

366

Note: This table is not inclusive of all STEM fields and sub-fields within NCSES. The NSF encompasses a broader definition of STEM including all fields and sub-fields within mathematics, engineering, computer and information sciences, natural sciences, and social/behavioral sciences; under the broader STEM definition, sub-fields included areas like economics, sociology, psychology, political science, architecture, communication, and family and consumer sciences/human sciences (Congressional Research Service, 2012; National Science Board, 2018).

White women. The inequities throughout the educational system culminated in Latinas being underrepresented at the end of the pathway to the PhD, where smaller percentages of Latinas earned doctorates than African American, Asian American, and White women. In 2000, similar percentages (0.3%) of Latinas and African American women earned doctorates (Perez Huber et al., 2006). Although both groups of women made progress during the decade, by 2010 Latinas fell behind African American women.

Table 3.1 reports the absolute number of Latinas who earned degrees by STEM category at the associate’s, bachelors, and masters levels based on data from the NCSES (2011, 2019a). In 2010, of all 25,743 science and engineering (S&E) associates degrees awarded to women, 4,031, or 15.7%, went to Latinas. Of all 264,283 S&E bachelor’s degrees awarded to women, 26,000, or just under 9.9%, were earned by Latinas (NCSES, 2019a); and of all 6)3,660 S&E master’s degrees awarded to women, 4,026)— approximately 6.3%—were earned by Latinas (NCSES, 2019b). Note that at all levels below the doctorate, Latina STEM degree attainment varies widely across fields.

 
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