Sociology Mind
2013. Vol.3, No.1, 67-82
Published Online January 2013 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 67
Black Americans, Gains in Science and
Engineering Degrees, and Gender
Amadu Jacky Kaba
Department of Sociology, An thropology and Social Work Se t on Hall University,
South Orange, USA
Email: kabaamad@shu. edu
Received November 15th, 2012; r e v ise d De cember 14th, 2012; accepted December 26th, 2012
This article is divided into three parts. First, it presents the most recent data on Black Americans’ higher
education enrollment and degree attainment rates, and overall numbers of earned college degrees at all
levels. Second, the article presents data on the most recent enrollment rates and total numbers of science
and engineering degrees earned by Black Americans. Finally, the article presents a number of factors that
have contributed to the gains in earned science and engineering degrees by Black Americans, and also
factors that have contributed to their slow rate of progress in these academic fields.
Keywords: Black Americans; Science and Engineering; Mathematics; Gender; Progress
In a very short period from the 1970s to present, people of
Black African descent in the United States have made substan-
tial progress in many important sectors of the society. For ex-
ample, by 2001, there were 9101 Black Elected Officials in the
United States; 5881 (64.6%) were men and 3220 (35.4%) were
women (Kaba, 2012a: p. 8). By 2013, a man of Black African
descent, Barack Obama, was in his second four-year term as the
President of the United States and he appointed another Black
man, Eric Holder as Attorney General, a position one could
argue to be second only to the Presidency in terms of power or
authority. A Black woman, Oprah Winfrey was listed on For-
bes magazine in 2011 as one of the 400 richest billionaires in
the world, with an estimated $2.7 billion. During the fall se-
mester of 2009, there were 2,782,149 professional staff in de-
gree granting institutions in the United States and of that total,
Blacks accounted for 207,335 (7.45%). Of the 1,439,144 fac-
ulty (instruction/research/public service) in those same institu-
tions in the United States during that same year, 95,095 (6.6%)
were Black (“Employees in degree-granting institutions, by
race/ethnicity and primary occupation: Fall 2009,” 2011). There
were 2.29 million employed Blacks with at least a bachelor’s
degree in the United States by 2000 (Kaba, 2012a: p. 8). In
addition, there are substantial numbers of Blacks in the enter-
tainment industry, business, law, sports, etc.
The primary reason or the engine behind this extraordinary
success of Black Americans is their participation in the higher
education institutions of the United States and elsewhere—
college enrollments and degree attainment. Masse y (2003) points
out that: “… African-Americans of both genders have benefited
from increased opportunities in higher education” (p. 38). For
example, in an article that examines the backgrounds of the
2011 Root magazine’s 100 most influential young Black Ame-
ricans aged 25 to 45, Kaba (2012a) finds that 70% of the 100
had already earned at least a bachelor’s degree (p. 16), com-
pared with 19.8% of Black Americans aged 25 and over, and
30.3% of White Americans in 2010. President Barack Obama
and First Lady Michelle Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder,
Oprah Winfrey, the great Hollywood actor Denzel Washington
and the great actress Angela Basset, are all highly educated
with at least a bachelor’s degree earned from some of the most
highly ranked colleges and universities in the United States.
Most importantly, the biggest gain that Black Americans have
made as a result of their gains in higher education is their sub-
stantial increase in life expectancy at birth. For example, in
2003, the life expectancy at birth of non-Hispanic Black fe-
males was 75.7 years (80.3 years for non-Hispanic White Fe-
males) and 68.8 years for non-Hispanic Black males (75.6 years
for non-Hispanic White males). By 2008, it was 77.5 years for
non-Hispanic Black females (81.2 years for non-Hispanic White
females) and 70.8 years for non-Hispanic Black males (76.2
years for non-Hispanic White males) (Harper et al., 2012: p.
This article presents the current status of higher education
attainment of Black females and Black males in the United
States. The article begins by presenting the most recent data on
Black Americans’ higher education enrollment and degree at-
tainment rates, and overall numbers of earned college and uni-
versity degrees at all levels, starting with bachelor’s degrees.
Next, the article presents data on the most recent enrollment
rates and total numbers of science and engineering degrees earn -
ed by Black Americans. Finally, the article presents some fac-
tors that have contributed to the gains in earned science and
engineering degrees by Black Americans and also some factors
cited for the slow growth in these academic fields. Let us now
begin by examining higher education enrollment and degree
attainme nt rates of Black Amer i can females a n d mal es.
Black Americans and College Enrollment Rates
In 1970, there were 378,000 Black Americans enrolled in
higher education institutions (Franklin and Moss, 1994: p. 9).
In 2000, there were 1,505,216 Black citizens enrolled in under-
graduate programs in US colleges and universities (National
Science Foundation (NSF), 2004: p. 26). In 2010, there were
3.25 million Blacks mixed with another race enrolled in col-
leges and universities in the United States (“School Enrollment
in the United States: 2010,” 2012).
Within the Black population in the United States, however,
there now exists a major gender gap in educational attainment
between Black females and their male counterparts. As Massey
(2003) notes: “… over the past several years, it has become
clear that despite these opportunities, the educational achieve-
ment of African-American men lags severely behind every
other group in America” (p. 38). Moreover, the college enroll-
ment rates of Black females are not only higher than those of
their male counterparts, but also higher than those of other ra-
cial/cultural groups and sub-groups.
Of the 1,505,216 Black citizens enrolled in undergraduate
programs in US colleges and universities in 2000, females
comprised 928,866 (62%), and males comprised 576,350 (38%)
(NSF, 2004: p. 26). According to the United States Census Bu-
reau, in October 2010, there were 292,233,000 people in the
United States aged 3 and over. Of that total, 20,275,000 (6.9%)
were enrolled in college (undergraduate or graduate); 9,007,000
(6.3%) out of 42,999,000 for males and 11,268,000 (7.6%) out
of 149,234,000 for females. For Blacks mixed with another race,
it was 1,241,000 (6.9%) out of 18,012,000 for males; 2,009,000
(9.6%) out of 20,939,000 for females; and 3,250,000 (8.3%) out
of 38,951,000 for both sexes. For Blacks alone as a single race,
it was 1,058,000 (6.3%) out of 16,759,000 for males; 1,831,000
(9.4%) out of 19,548,000 for females; and 2,889,000 (8%) out
of 36,303,000 for both sexes. For non-Hispanic Whites, it was
5,673,000 (6.1%) out of 93,085,000 for males; 6,940,000 (7.1%)
out of 97,268,000 for females; and 12,613,000 (6.6%) out of
190,353,000 for both sexes. For Asians alone as a single race, it
was 647,000 (9.8%) out of 6,587,000 for males; 676,000 (9.5%)
out of 7,097,000 for females; and 1,322,000 (9.7%) out of
13,685,000 for both sexes. For Asians mixed with another race,
it was 740,000 (10.2%) out of 7,278,000 for males; 727,000
(9.4%) out of 7,732,000 for females; and 1,467,000 (9.8%) out
of 15,010,000 for both sexes. For Hispanics of any race, it was
1,302,000 (5.5%) out of 23,864,000 for males; 1,576,000 (7%)
out of 22,538,000 for females; and 2,879,000 (6.2%) out of
46,402,000 for both sexes (“School Enrollment in the United
States: 2010,” 2012).
Black Americans and Degree Attainment Rates
The Black population in the United States has also made
substantial progress in college or university degree attainment.
By 2011, there were 3.437 million Blacks (or mixed with an-
other race) aged 18 and over with at least a bachelor’s degree.
Of that total, 2.028 million (59%) were women and 1.409 mil-
lion (41%) were men. Of the 1.275 million with master’s de-
grees, 808,000 (63.4%) were women and 467,000 (36.6%) were
men. Of the 189,000 with professional degrees (such as Juris
Doctorates and Medical Doctorates), 119,000 (63%) were wo-
men and 70,000 (37%) were men. Finally, of the 181,000 with
doctorate degrees, 79,000 (43.6%) were women and 102,000
(56.4%) were men1. This means that in 2011, there were 3.437
million Blacks (or mixed with another race) aged 18 and over
who held 5.082 million bachelor’s, master’s, professional and
doctorate degrees combined, with 3.034 million (59.7%) com-
bined degrees for Black women, and 2.048 million (40.3%)
combined degrees for Black men. Glazer (2003) points to a
study that showed that “… more blacks than whites get law
degrees… and more whites than blacks get doctoral degrees (7
percent to 4 percent)” (p. 80).
In 1999, 1145 Black females earned doctorates in the United
States. In 2009, that figure increased to 16052. In 1999, 908
Black males earned doctorates in the United States. In 2009,
that figure increased to 10943.
It is important to note that Black Americans, especially Black
females, go deep into debt to pay for their higher education. For
example, “The average cumulative debt (undergraduate and
graduate) of those who earned doctorates in 2009 was $41,018
for Blacks… and $22,518 for Whites. In addition, 27.1% of the
Black graduates had debt of $70,001 or more; [but] 10.5% of
Whites…” (Kaba, 2012b: p. 138).
It is also useful to point out that young Black Americans are
doing a very good job of attaining doctorates in their twenties
or younger, while older Black Americans in their fifties or older
are also going to college to earn their bachelor’s degrees, which
were once denied to them. For example, in 2009, there were
17,000 (14.5% of 117,000 total in the United States) Blacks
alone or in combination with another race aged 25 - 29 with
earned doctorates, with Black females accounting for 13,000
(76.5%, but 11.1% of all 117,000 total), and Black males ac-
counting for 4000 (23.5%, but 3.4% of all 117,000 total). The
17,000 Blacks alone or in combination with another race with
doctorates in 2009 constituted 0.56% of the 3,012,000 aged 25 -
29. The 13,000 Black females alone or in combination with
another race with doctorates in 2009 constituted 0.82% of the
1,592,000 Black females in that age group, and the 4000 Black
mal es a lone in that age group with doctorates is 0.28% of Black
males aged 25 - 29 (“Census Bureau Reports Nearly 6 in 10
Advanced Degree Holders,” 2011). Finally, in 2008, there were
14,000 individuals in the United States aged 18 - 24 with
earned doctorates. In 2008, there were 4,112,000 Blacks alone
aged 18 - 24, with males accounting for 1,973,000 (48%) and
females accounting for 2,138,000 (52%). Of the 4000 doctor-
ates (28.6% of the 14,000 doctorates) earned by Blacks alone in
2008, Black females accounted for all of them (Kaba, 2012a: pp.
14-16). In October 2010, of the 58.1 million non-Hispanic
Whites aged 55 and over, 259,000 (0.4%) were enrolled in
college (undergraduate or graduate). For 6,915,000 Blacks
alone aged 55 and over, 59,000 (0.9%) were enrolled in college
(“Table 1. Enrollment Status of the Population 3 Years Old and
Over, by Sex, Age, Race,” 2012). The median age when doc-
torates were earned in 2009 for all graduates was 32.2 years;
36.5 years for Blacks; 32.2 years for Whites; and 32 years for
those who are two or more races (“Table 66. Statistical profile
of doctorate recipients, by race/ethnicity and citizenship: 2009,”
Many factors have been cited for the widening gap in educa-
tional attainment between Black females and Black males.
Kaba (2005) presents six factors that have contributed to the
2“Table 19. Female doctorate recipients, by race/ethnicity and citizenship:
1999-2009,” National Science Foundation. Retrieved on 17 May2012 from:
3“Table 18. Male doctorate recipients, by race/ethnicity and citizenship:
1999-2009,” National Science Foundation. Retrieved on 17 May 2012 from:
1“Table 1. Educational Attainment of the Population 18 Years and Over, by
Age, Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin: 2011,” 2012. Educational Attainment
in the United States: 2011—Detailed Tables. United States Census Bureau.
Retrieved on February 25, 2012 f r om:
http://www.census. gov/hhes/socdemo/education/data/cps/2011/tables.html.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
gap in higher educational attainment between Black females
and Black males. They are: 1) significant high school dropout
and low college graduation rates for Black males; 2) high pro-
portion of Black males in the United States military; 3) more
Black females within the total Black population than Black
males; 4) Black males entering the workforce at an early age
instead of college; 5) the high death rate of college aged Black
males; and 6) the disproportionately high number of Black
males in local jails and federal and state prisons (also see
Franklin & Mizell, 1995: pp. 5-18). Let us now turn to Black
Americans and their gains in science and engineering education.
Enrollment and Degree Attainment Rates of
Black American Females and Males in Science
and Engineering
Enrollment in Science and Engineering
Black Americans are among those minorities who have made
substantial progress in science and engineering since the 1970s.
The evidence shows that Black American students are showing
interest in science and engineering beginning in K-12 education.
The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education (JBHE) (1996)
notes that in science and mathematics, young Black students are
improving their standardized tests scores at twice the rate of
their White counterparts. According to the National Center for
Education Statistics (NCES) (1997), the proportion of Black
high school graduates taking the “New Basics” curriculum (“a
core curriculum comprising 4 units of English and 3 units each
of science, social studies, and mathematics recommended by
the National Commission on Excellence in Education in A
Nation at Risk.”) in 1982, 1987, 1990, and 1994, was 11.5%,
24.1%, 41.5%, and 44.7% respectively. For Whites, it was
15.5%, 29.3%, 40.6%, and 53.6% respectively. For Hispanics,
it was 6.7%, 16.8%, 30.4%, and 43.8% respectively (p. 5). In
1982, the percentage of Black high school graduates taking
selected mathematics and science courses in high school was
22% for Algebra II, 6% for Trigonometry, 2.2% for Analysis/
pre-calculus, 1.3% for Calculus, 0.3% for AP calculus, 19.7%
for biology and chemistry, 4.8% for biology, chemistry, and
physics. In 1994, it was 43.7%, 13.6%, 9.8%, 3.8%, 2%, 42%,
and 13% respectively (p. 7). The average SAT scores of Black
test-takers have increased 24 points on the verbal section and
34 points on the mathematics section (NCES, 1997: p. 11). Ac-
cording to the JBHE (1996), in 1992, the proportion of nine-
year-old Blacks achieving the level of basic understanding of
science on the National Assessment of Educational Progress
(NAEP) test improved by 24% since 1997. During that same
period, Black students improved their mathematics scores by 18
percent (p. 30). Hanson (2004) points out that in 8th grade,
young Black female students are more likely to be in advanced,
enriched, or accelerated science courses than their young White
female peers (40% vs. 24%) (al so see Sullivan & Haskins, 2001:
p. 103; Trusty, 2002). Let us examine the trends in college en-
rollment and degree attainment in science and engineering of
Black Americans in the post-1960s period.
According to Hurtado et al. (2009), “In 2005, the same per-
centage of African American and White (44%) college-bound
high school students indicated their intent to major in science
and engineering fields” (p. 191).
Table 1 shows the proportion of college freshmen students
(by race/ethnicity and sex) with intentions to major in science
and engineering fields in 2002. A careful observation of the
table shows that although a higher proportion of males than
females in all of the racial and ethnic groups tend to major in
science and engineering, the gap (6 percentage points) between
Black males and Black females is closest than all the other
groups (each with at least 9 percentage points), with double
figure gaps for Whites (14 points), Asian/Pacific Islanders (20
points) and American India ns/Alaskan Natives (10 point s). How-
ever, for the six fields listed (Biological/agricultural sciences,
computer sciences, engineering, math/statistics, physical sci-
ences and social and behavioral sciences), Black females lead
in three (Biological/agricultural sciences, math/statistics, and
social and behavioral sciences) and tie with Black males in one
field (physical sciences) (Table 1).
In 2006, among Black male college freshmen, 36.3% in-
tended to major in Science and Engineering: 1.8% in the
Physical Sciences; 6.8% in Biological/Agricultural Sciences;
0.8% in Mathematics/Statistics; 3.8% in Computer Science;
8.7% in Social/Behavioral Sciences; and 14.4% in Engineering.
Among Black females, 32.1% intended in majoring in Science
and Engineering: 1.6% in the Physical Sciences; 11% in Bio-
logical/Agricultural Sciences; 0.4% in Mathematics/Statistics;
1.1% in Computer Science; 15.7% in Social/Behavioral Sci-
ences; and 2.3% in Engineering4.
The data above show that black females are on pace to either
catch up or surpass their males counterparts in almost all of
these fields listed under science and engineering.
It is noted that: “… less than one percent of all African-
American college students major in the physical sciences. Also,
less than one percent major in mathematics” (Anonymous,
2009: p. 36; also see Marra et al., 2012). Morris et al. (2012)
point out that in 2002, there were 266 Black students enrolled
in science and engineering fields in graduate schools; 270 in
2003; 261 in 2004 and 262 in 2005 (p. 46).
Degree Attainment in Science and Engineering
Due to a relatively large increase in its total population and
more economic and other opportunities for Black Americans
and people of Black African descent, their proportions and
actual numbers with science and engineering degrees have in-
creased substantially, although as we shall learn later, these
degrees are not as high as other racial groups. “Large numbers
of blacks now major in biology and health sciences while in
college. The number of blacks earning Ph.D.s in science and
engineering appears to be increasing each year. Many young
blacks are beginning to make great strides in fields that histori-
cally have been nearly totally closed to African Americans”
(“Young Blacks are beginning to Break Negative Stereotypes,”
2009: p. 36).
Slaton (2010) points out “… that the 1930 US census re-
ported only 500 black-engineers and architects in the entire
country” (p. 17). In 1993, the proportion of bachelor’s degrees
conferred to Blacks in Biological/life sciences was 3.6%;
24.6% in Business management; 2.9% in Computer and infor-
mation science; 7.2% in education; 3.4% in engineering; 3.9%
in English language and literature; 6.1% in health science; 3.5%
4“Appendix Tables 2-15. Freshmen Intending S&E major, by sex, race/eth-
nicity, and field; Selected years, 1985-2006,” Chapter 2. “Higher Education
in Science and Engineering,” in Science and Engineering Indicators 2008.
Retrieved on 23 May 2012 from:
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 69
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Table 1.
Intentions of fres hmen to major in S&E fie lds, by race/ethnicity and sex: 2002 (in percentages).
Race/Ethn icity and sex All S&E
Majors Biological/Agricultural
sciences Computer
sciences Engineering Math/
Statistics Physical
sciences Social/ B ehavioral
White 30.5 7.0 2.0 9.2 0.8 2.1 9.4
Female 23.8 7.6 0.4 2.5 0.7 1.5 11.1
Male 37.9 6.2 3.8 17.0 0.9 2.8 7.2
Asian/Pacific Islander 42.1 11.9 3.5 15.9 0.8 1.9 8.1
Female 33.1 13.5 1.2 6.1 0.8 1.6 9.9
Male 53.0 10.2 6.1 27.5 0.9 2.2 6.1
Black 34.2 8.4 3.5 8.6 0.5 1.2 12.0
Female 31.9 10.0 1.9 3.7 0.5 1.3 14.5
Male 38.0 5.8 6.0 16.5 0.4 1.3 8.0
Chicano/Puerto Rico 34.1 8.2 1.8 8.6 0.7 1.6 13.2
Female 30.6 9.2 0.5 2.2 0.5 1.5 16.7
Male 39.4 6.8 3.8 18.1 1.0 1.8 7.9
Other Hispanic 34.7 7.8 1.8 8.9 0.7 1.6 13.9
Female 30.9 8.3 0.7 3.2 0.6 1.5 16.6
Male 40.8 6.9 3.4 17.6 0.9 2.0 10.0
Ame. Indian/Alas. Native 31.0 7.9 1.8 7.5 0.6 1.7 11.5
Female 27.2 8.8 0.5 2.8 0.4 1.4 13.3
Male 37.6 6.1 4.0 15.9 0.8 2.2 8.6
Note: Includes first-year students at all 4-year colleges; Source: NSF, 2004, p. 33.
in Humanities; 1.3% in Mathematics; 1.1% in physical sciences;
6.1% in Psycholog; 12.8% in Social Sciences; and 23.6% in the
category called “other” (NCES, 1997: p. 25).
Black American males continue to earn more engineering
degrees than Black females, but Black females are catching up
and surpassing Black males in science and mathematics. For
example, Smith (2003) points out that in 1998, Black Ameri-
cans earned 7.6% of all bachelor’s degrees in science and engi-
neering, a 2.3% increase from 1990. During that same year,
Black American females earned 9.7% of the bachelor’s degrees
awarded to females in science and engineering, while their male
counterparts earned 5.7% of bachelor’s degrees in science and
engineering awarded to males (p. 62). Of the 3429 (4.6% of
total of 75,031) engineering degrees awarded to Black under-
graduate students in 2003, Black men received 2295 (66.9%)
and Black women received 1134 (33.1%). For masters degrees
in engineering, Black students earned 916 (590 (64.4%) for
males and 326 (35.6%) for females). Of the 97 out of a total of
6027 Ph.D.s in engineering earned by Blacks, men received 75
(77.3%), and women received 22 (22.7%) (Chew, 2004: p. 32).
In the 2007-2008 academic year in the United States, within
the Black race, 24.9% of all bachelor’s degrees earned in de-
gree-granting institutions were in Business; 10% in Social Sci-
ences; 8.4% in Health Professions and Related Clinical Sci-
ences; 7.2% in Psychology; 5.3% in Communication and Com-
munications Technologies; 4.3% in Education; 4% in Biologi-
cal and Biomedical Sciences; 3.4% in Visual and Performing
Arts; 3% in Engineering and Engineering Technologies; and
2.8% in English Language and Literature/Letters5.
According to Table 2, of the 156,615 Blacks who earned
bachelor’s degrees in 20 08-2009, females accounted for 10 3,142
(65.9%), and males accounted for 53,473 (34.1%). Among the
various academic fields listed in Table 2, Blacks earned 39,532
bachelor’s degrees in Business; 24,497 (62%, but 23.7% of
103,142 total females) for females and 15,035 (38%, but 28.1%
of 53,473 total males) for males. There were 13,827 bachelor’s
degrees awarded to Blacks in the Health Professions and Re-
lated Clinical Sciences, with females accounting for 11,840
(85.6%, but 11.5% of total), and males accounting for 1987
(14.4%, but 3.7% of total). There were 13,527 bachelor’s de-
grees awarded to Blacks in the Social Sciences, with females ac-
counting for 9377 (61.8%, but 8.3% of total) and males ac-
counting for 5806 (38.2%, but 9.3% of total). The re were 11,270
bachelor’s degrees awarded to Blacks in Psychology, with fe-
males accounting for 9192 (81.6%, but 8.9% of total) and males
accounting for 2078 (18.4%, but 3.9% of total). Of 8011
bachelor’s degrees awarded to Blacks in Security and Protec-
tive Services, females accountedfor 5130 (64%, but 5% of to-
5“Table 26.2. Percentage of Degrees Awarded by Degree-Granting Institu-
tions in the Most Popular Fields of Study, by Race/Ethnicity and Level o
Study: 2007-2008,” 2010, July. Status and Trends in Education of Racial
and Ethnic Minorities. National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved on
May 23, 2012 from:
Table 2.
Bachelor’s degrees awarded to Black Am ericans, by sex and field of study: 2008-2009.
Both sexesMales
% Between
sexes % Within
sex Females % Between
sexes % Within
All fields, t o tal 156,615 53,473 34.1 103,142 65.9
Agriculture and natural resources 742 355 47.8 0.7 387 52.2 0.4
Architec t ur e and rel ated servic es 486 288 59.3 0.5 198 40.7 0.2
Area, et hnic, cultural, and gender studie s 1192 380 31.9 0.7 812 68.1 0.8
Biological and biomedical sciences 6379 1755 27.5 3.3 4624 72.5 4.5
Business 39,532 15,035 38 28.1 24,497 62 23.7
Communications, journalism, and related pro grams 7636 2594 34 4.8 5042 66 4.9
Communications technologies 462 299 64.7 0.6 163 35.3 0.2
Computer and inform ation scienc es 4322 2813 65.1 5.3 1509 34.9 1.5
Construction trades 13 10 77 0.02 3 23 0.003
Education 6645 1601 24.1 3 5044 75.9 4.9
Engineering 3259 2362 72.5 4.4 897 27.5 0.9
Engineering technologies\1\ 1373 1124 81.9 2.1 249 18.1 0.2
English language and literature/letters 4225 1092 25.8 2 31 33 74.1 3
Family and consumer sciences 2437 394 16.2 0.7 2043 83.8 2
Foreign languages, literatures, and linguistics 919 237 25.8 0.4 682 74.2 0.7
Health profe ssions and related clinical sciences 13,827 1987 14.4 3.7 11,840 85.6 11.5
Legal profes sions and studies 656 126 19.2 0.2 530 80.8 0.5
Liberal arts and sc i ences, general studies, and humanities 6701 2188 32.6 4.1 4513 67.4 4.4
Library science 2 0 0 0 2 100 0.002
Mathematics and statistics 876 458 52.3 0.9 418 47.7 0.4
Mechanics and repair technologies 20 19 95 0.04 1 5 0.001
Military technologies 2 2 100 0.004 0 0 0
Multi/Interdisciplinary studies 3522 992 28.2 1.9 2530 71.8 2.4
Parks, recr eation, leisure and fitne ss studies 3118 1802 57.8 3.4 1316 42.2 1.3
Philosophy and religious studies 761 421 55.3 0.8 340 44.7 0.3
Physical sciences a nd science technologies 1315 567 43.1 1.1 748 56.9 0.7
Precision production 1 1 100 0.002 0 0 0
Psychology 11,270 2078 18.4 3.9 9192 81.6 8.9
Public administration and social service professions 5498 837 15.2 1.6 4661 84.8 4.5
Security a n d p rotective s ervices 801 1 288 1 36 5.4 5130 64 5
Social sciences and history 15,183 5806 38.2 10.9 9377 61.8 9.1
Social sciences 13,527 4966 36.7 9.3 8561 63.3 8.3
History 1656 840 50.7 1.6 816 49.3 0.8
Theology a nd religious vocations 591 298 50.4 0.6 293 49.6 0.3
Transporta tion and materials moving 304 270 88.8 0.5 34 11.2 0.03
Visual and performing arts 5335 2401 45 4.5 2934 55 2.8
Other and not classified 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Note: Source: “Table 297. Bachelor’s Degrees Con ferred by Deg ree-Granting Ins tituti ons , b y Sex, Race/Eth ni cit y, and Fi eld of Study: 2 008-2009,” 2010. Di gest o f Edu c a-
tion Statistics. National Center for Education Statistic s. Retrieved on May 23, 20 12 from:
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 71
tal), and males accounted for 2881 (36%, but 5.4% of total). Of
the 7636 bachelor’s degrees awarded to Blacks in Communica-
tions, Journalism, and Related Programs, females accounted for
5042 (66%, but 4.9% of total) and males accounted for 2594
(34%, but 4.8% of total). Of the 6701 bachelor’s degrees
awarded to Blacks in the Liberal Arts and Sciences, General
Studies, and Humanities, females accounted for 4513 (67.4%,
but 4.4% of total), and males accounted for 2188 (32.6%, but
4.1% of total). Of the 6645 bachelor’s degrees awarded in
Education, females accounted for 5044 (75.9%, but 4.9% of
total) and males accounted for 1601 (24.1%, but 3% of total).
In science, mathematics and engineering fields males con-
tinue to earn more degrees in mathematics and engineering
(Freeman et al., 2005; also see Ma, 2009), which is also ob-
served in Table 2.
Of the 6379 bachelor’s degrees awarded to Blacks in Bio-
logical and Biomedical Sciences, females accounted for 4624
(72.5%, but 4.5% of total), and males accounted for 1755
(27.5%, but 3.3% of total). Of the 4322 bachelor’s degrees
awarded to Blacks in Computer and Information Sciences,
males accounted for 2813 (65.1%, but 5.3% of total) and fe-
males accounted for 1509 (34.9%, but 1.5% of total). Of the
3259 bachelor’s degrees awarded to Blacks in Engineering,
males accounted for 2362 (72.5%, but 4.4% of total), and fe-
males accounted for 897 (27.5%, but 0.9% of total). Of the 876
bachelor’s degrees awarded to Blacks in Mathematics and Sta-
tistics, males accounted for 458 (52.3%, but 0.9% of total), and
females accounted for 418 (47.7%, but 0.4% of total) (Table 2;
also see Eugene & Clark, 2012: pp. 45-46).
For master’s degrees, during the 2007-2008 academic year,
Blacks earned 31.6% in Business; 27.7% in Education; 9.4% in
Health Professions and Related Clinical Sciences; 4.5% in
Psychology; 2% in Social Sciences and History; 1.9% in Engi-
neering and Engineering Technologies; 1.7% in Computer and
Information Services; 1% in Visual and Performing Arts; and
0.9% in Biological and Biomedical Sciences6.
Research has shown that females are gaining grounds in
academic fields that were once dominated by males (England et
al., 2007; also see Perna et al., 2009: p. 2). According to Table
3, of the 6571 First-Professional degrees awarded to Blacks in
2008-2009 academic year, females accounted for 4071 (62%)
and males accounted for 2500 (38%), with females having more
degrees in 9 of the 11 academic fields listed. Among the vari-
ous academic fields listed in Table 3, Blacks earned 3162 de-
grees in Law, with females accounting for 1990 (62.9%), and
males accounting for 1172 (37.1%). Of the 1095 degrees
awarded to Blacks in Medicine, females accounted for 696
(63.6%), and males accounted for 399 (36.4%). Of the 835
degrees awarded to Blacks in Theology, males accounted for
459 (55%), and females accounted for 376 (45%). Of the 801
degrees awarded to Blacks in Pharmacy, females accounted for
531 (66.3%), and males accounted for 270 (33.7%). Of the 275
degrees awarded to Blacks in Dentistry, females accounted for
180 (65.5%), and males accounted for 95 (34.5%). Of the 150
degrees awarded to Blacks in Osteopathic Medicine, females
accounted for 107 (71.3%), and males accounted for 43
(28.7%). Of the 94 degrees awarded to Blacks in Chiropractic
Medicine, females accounted for 66 (70.2%), and males ac-
counted for 28 (29.8%). Of the 75 degrees awarded to Blacks in
Veterinary Medicine, females accounted for 63 (84%), and
males accounted for 12 (16%). Of the 40 degrees awarded to
Blacks in Optometry, females accounted for 32 (80%), and
males accounted for 8 (20%). Of the 39 degrees awarded to
Blacks in Podiatry or Podiatric Medicine, females accounted
for 28 (71.8%), and males accounted for 11 (28.2%). Of the 5
degrees awarded to Blacks in Naturopathic Medicine, males
accounted for 3 (60%), and females accounted for 2 (40%)
(Table 3).
For doctorate degrees, during the 2007-2008 academic year,
Blacks earned 36.8% in Education; 11.7% in Health Profes-
sions and Related Clinical Sciences; 9.2% in Psychology; 6.2%
in Biological and Biomedical Sciences; 5.8% in Business; 4.7%
in Social Sciences and History; 3.6% in Engineering and Engi-
neering Technologies; 2.4% Physical Sciences and Science Tech-
nologies; 1.1% in Visual and Performing Arts; and 0.8% in
Computer and Information Sciences7.
Solorzano (1995) points out that from 1980 to 1990, a total
of 278,905 doctorates were produced by United States universi-
ties. Among the 106,592 doctorates awarded to women during
that period, 5823 (5.5%) were Black American women. Among
the 172,313 doctorates awarded to males, 5394 (3.1%) were
Black American males. Black American females earned an ave-
rage of 12.1% of the 30-to-34-year-old female cohort, while
their male peers earned an averaged of 10.6% of the total male
cohort during that same period (p. 18; also see Perna et al.,
2009: p. 2).
Of the 11,217 doctorates earned by Black Americans from
1980 to 1990, Black females comprised 52 percent (p. 19). The
breakdown for individual majors is as follows: (Engineering;
Black women, 288, Black men, 262); (Physical Science; Black
women, 409, Black men, 331); (Life Science, Black women,
1004, Black men, 561); (Social Science, Black women, 2210,
Black men, 1134); (Humanities, Black women, 960, Black men,
487) (Education, Black women, 5533, Black men, 2216); (pro-
fessional degrees, Black women, 813, Black men, 403) (Solor-
zano, 1995: p. 19).
In 2002, among US citizens, of the doctorates awarded to
Blacks, women received 63.1%, and 36.9% for Black men:
Hispanic, 56.5% for women and 43.5% for men: Asian, 45.2%
for females and 54.8% for males: American Indian, 54.1% for
females and 45.9% for males: White, 49.7% for females and
50.3% for men (Hoffer et al., 2003: p. 17).
Hanson (2004) points out that Black females comprise a
much larger percentage of Black American scientists (36%)
than is the case for White females (22%) (p. 100).
In 2009, of the 32,231 doctorates earned by US citizens and
permanent residents, 6.9% were earned by Blacks. Of the 7783
doctorates earned in Life Sciences, 5.4% were earned by Blacks;
3.1% of the 4414 doctorates in Physical Sciences; 6.8% of the
5605 doctorates in the Social Sciences; 4.3% of 3148 doctorates
earned in Engineering; 14.5% of the 5566 doctorates earned in
Education; 4.3% of the 3880 doctorates earned in the Humani-
6“Table 26.2. Percentage of Degrees Awarded by Degree-Granting Institu-
tions in the Most Popular Fields of Study, by Race/Ethnicity and Level o
Study: 2007-2008,” 2010, July. “Status and Trends in Education of Racial
and Ethnic Minorities,” National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved
on May 23, 2012 from:
7“Table 26.2. Percentage of Degrees Awarded by Degree-Granting Institu-
tions in the Most Popular Fields of Study, by Race/Ethnicity and Level o
Study: 2007-2008,” 2010, July. Status and Trends in Education of Racial
and Ethnic Minorities. National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved on
May 23, 2012 from:
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Table 3.
First-professional degrees awarded to Black Am ericans, by sex and field of study: 2008-2009 .
Both sexes Males % Females %
All fields, total 6571 2500 38 4071 62
Dentistry (D.D.S. or D.M.D.) 275 95 35 180 66
Medicine (M.D.) 1095 399 36 696 64
Optometry (O.D.) 40 8 20 32 80
Osteopathic medicine (D.O.) 150 43 29 107 71
Pharmacy (Pharm. D.) 801 270 34 531 66
Podiatry (Pod. D. or D.P.) or podiatric me d icine (D.P.M.) 3 9 11 28 2 8 72
Veterinary medicine (D.V.M.) 75 12 16 63 84
Chiropract ic medicine (D.C. or D.C.M.) 94 28 30 66 70
Naturopathic medicine 5 3 60 2 40
Law (L.L .B. or J.D.) 3162 1172 37 1990 63
Theology (M. Div., M.H .L., B.D. , or Ord.) 835 459 55 376 45
Note: Source: “Table 306. First-professional degrees conferred by degree-granting institutions, by sex, race/ethnicity, and field of study: 2008-2009,” 2010. Digest of
education Statistics. National center for education statistics. retrieved on 23 May 2012 from:
ties; 9.6% of the 1835 doctorates earned in other non-Science
and Engineering fields8.
In 2009, there were 2221 Black citizens or permanent resi-
dents who earned doctorates. Of that total, 420 (18.9%) were in
the Life Sciences; 135 (6.1%) in the Physical Sciences; 380
(17.1%) in the Social Sciences and Psychology; 134 (6%) in
Engineering; 809 (36.4%) in Education; 167 (7.5%) in the Hu-
manities; 176 (7.9%) in other non Science and Engineering
fields9 (also see Ballard & Cintrón, 2010: pp. 12-13).
It is useful to point out that Historically Black Colleges and
Universities (HBCUs) award more science and engineering
degrees to Blacks than other higher education institutions. Ac-
cording to Hamilton (2004), “In the battle to increase the num-
bers of African American Ph.D.s in science, technology and
engineering, the nation may just have a secret weapon: histori-
cally Black colleges and universities” (p. 26). Of the 15 col-
leges and universities that awarded the most number of engi-
neering degrees to Black students from 1998 to 2002, Histori-
cally Black Institutions were in the top eight (Chew, 2004: p.
32; also see Morris et al., 2012). According to the JBHE (2008):
“The nation’s historically black colleges and universities
produce about one of every six African-American stu-
dents who earn a bachelor’s degree in the United States.
Thirty years ago, black colleges produced about a third of
all African Americans who earned bachelor’s degrees.
This decline is not because black colleges are turning out
fewer graduates but because predominantly white institu-
tions are now enrolling and graduating far greater num-
bers of black students. But in one important area the black
colleges are havi ng a greater impact than before. A new r e-
port from the National Science Foundation finds that
black colleges and universities are producing a greater
share of graduates who go on to earn Ph.D.s in science
and engineering than was the case in the past. In 1990, of
all blacks who earned Ph.D.s in the fields of mathematics
or science, 21 percent were graduates of historically black
colleges and universities. In 2006, the latest year for
which data is available, black colleges were the feeder
schools for 29 percent of African Americans who earned
doctorates in these fields. The eight colleges and universi-
ties that produced the most African-American graduates
who went on to earn Ph.D.s. in mathematics or science in
the 1997 to 2006 period are all historically black colleges
and universities” (Anonymous, 2008: p. 35).
The JBHE (2008) adds that these ten HBCUs and two non-
HBCUs awarded undergraduate degrees to Black American
students who went on to earn a doctorate in Mathematics or
Science from 1997 to 2006: Howard University (224 students);
Spelman College (150 students); Hampton University (135
students): Florida A & M University (100 students); Morehouse
College (99 students); North Carolina A & T State University
(89 students); Southern University—Baton Rouge (88 students);
Xavier University of Louisiana (79 students); Harvard Univer-
sity (non-HBCU, 73 students); University of Maryland (non-
HBCU, 72 students); Tuskegee University (71 students); and
Morgan State University (64 students) (Anonymous, 2008: p.
35)10. (also see Pyrtle and Whitney, 2008). According to Perna
et al. (2009):
8“Table 22. US citizen and permanent resident doctorate recipients, by
race/ethnicity and major field of study: 2009,” 2010. Doctorate Recipients
from US Universities. National Science Foundation. Retrieved on 12 May
2012 from:
9“Table 20. Doctorate recipients by citizenship, race/ethnicity, and subfield
of study: 2009,” 2010. Doctorate Recipients from US Universities. National
Science Foundation. Retrieved on 12 May 2012 from:
statistics/nsf11306/app endix/pdf/tab20.pdf.
10Anonymous (2008). “Black Colleges and Universities Are Graduating an
Increasing Share of African Americans Who Earn Ph.D.s in Mathematics
and Science,” The Journal of Bl acks in Hi g her Education, Issue 61, p. 35.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 73
“… colleges and universities that serve predominantly
Black populations and/or women appear to be dispropor-
tionately effective in promoting the educational attain-
ment of these groups overall, and in STEM fields in par-
ticular… of the top 20 leading producers of African
American bachelor’s degrees in STEM [Science, Tech-
nology, Engineering, and Mathematics] fields, all but
three are HBCUs… nationwide in 2004, HBCUs were the
source of 22% of all bachelor’s degrees to Blacks but 30%
of the bachelor’s degrees to Blacks in STEM fields.
HBCUs are also a relatively more important source of
STEM degrees for Black women than Black men. Analy-
ses of IPEDS data also reveal that 33% of the bachelor’s
degrees awarded to Black women in STEM fields in 2004
were from HBCUs, compared to only 26% of the bache-
lor’s degrees in STEM fields for Black men” (p. 5).
While Black students have made real gains in science and
engineering in the United States, many scholars and other au-
thors have highlighted the low rates of degree attainment in
many of those academic fields by Black students. The next
section of this article will focus on these two contradictory
aspects of the gradual progress of people of Black African de-
scent in science an d engineering education in the Unit e d States.
Factors Responsible for Gains in Earned Science
and Engineering Degrees by Black American
Females and Males and Factors Respo n sible for
Their Slow Growth in the Gains in Science and
Engineering Degrees
In attempting to understand the progress of Black Americans
in science and engineering education, one must examine it in
two forms. First, compared to 1900, 1950 and 2000, Black
Americans have made substantial progress in science and engi-
neering education. Second, a closer examination of the data
also reveals that relative to the over 42 million Black Ame-
ricans by 2011, these numbers are not large enough. Also, rela-
tive to other racial groups in the United States, Black Ameri-
cans are earning fewer science and engineering degrees. This
section of this article will then present examples from both
Factors Responsible for Gains in Earned Science
and Engineering Degrees by Black American
Females and Males
Among the factors responsible for the success of Black
Americans in science and engineering is that Black American
parents continue to encourage their daughters and sons to enroll
in these academic fields. For example, according to poll results
of 1000 parents released by the US Department of Education on
March 16, 2004, nearly 75% of the Black American parents
surveyed rated science as “very important” to their child’s edu-
cation. Moreover, 71% of those parents said that science educa-
tion was crucial in a globally competitive workforce (US De-
partment of Education, 2004: p. 1; also see Williams, 2004). In
addition, Smith (2003) presents other factors that have helped
to ignite interests in science and engineering among minorities
and Black Americans in particular. According to Smith (2003),
part of the reasons for the increasing interest in science by mi-
norities is that “… many foundations and governmental agen-
cies are beginning to take proactive stances by helping colleges
and universities with their efforts to produce more mathematic-
cians, scientists, and engineers” (p. 62). Smith (2003) adds that
these organizations provide financial support and other kinds of
services such as job internships, mentoring and research to
universities for the purpose of introducing programs that ad-
dress the problems of low representation of minorities and
women in engineering and other science programs (p. 62).
It has been noted that Black students have succeeded in the
top colleges and universities in the United States while major-
ing in challenging academic fields. Barinaga (1998) points out
that, Black students have shown great success in the nation’s
top universities by majoring in “tough majors.” Barinaga (1998)
notes that at such institutions, 20% each of Black and White
students majored in science and engin eering” (p. 1778).
In explaining why some Black American males are excelling
in engineering, Smith (2003) points out that persistence play an
important role. According to Smith, a big difference between
persistent and non-persistent students is that non-persistent
students allow negative experiences, perceptions or attitudes to
affect their drive and academic performance. In the case of the
Black male students in Smith’s (2003) study, their “… spirit of
the prove-them-wrong syndrome” is crucial in their success. In
Smith’s (2003) study, those Black male students who succeed
in engineering “developed coping mechanisms that manifested
into positive vigor in spite of adversity” (p. 65). The students
held a belief that they controlled their destiny in the pursuit of
their engineering degrees, and that they “… assumed a more
assertive academic posture and a stronger sense of purpose,
commitment, and confidence in their academic persistence and
performance” (p. 66). Smith (2003) quoted one Black American
male engineering student as saying: “Being poor in college
really hurts you... I remember one semester, for at least four
weeks, I didn’t have many of my books, so I used to go to the
bookstore and read my homework assignments. There are a lot
of factors that you have to overcome to be successful in aca-
demics” (p. 66). Another Black male engineering student was
quoted as saying: “You have to have tenacity and dedication in
engineering. You also have to make sacrifices, like when you
choose to complete your engineering project versus going to
play basketball” (p. 66; also see Davis, 1999; Hurtado et al.,
2009: pp. 205-208).
As the data above has illustrated, the gains in enrollment and
degree attainment in science and engineering by women have
also contributed to the increase in the number of these degrees
in the Black American population, since women were influ-
enced by society to major in non-science and engineering aca-
demic fields. According to Perna et al. (2009):
“Other research suggests the historical and current role of
women’s colleges in promoting the attainment of women
in science and engineering careers. In an historical ex-
amination of Mount Holyoke Seminary (now Mount
Holyoke College) between 1837 and 1941… the institu-
tion’s success in educating women for science careers was
attributable to an institutional climate where focusing on
science was “the norm.” Among the important character-
istics of this climate were the presence of substantial
numbers of women who served not only as institutional
leaders and faculty but also as role models, the college’s
reputation as a leader in providing science education, the
tendency of students interested in science to choose to at-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
tend the institution, and the college’s “collaborative re-
search orientation”… “the relatively high” rate of entrance
into science careers among students who graduated with a
science or math major from one women’s college suggests
the positive role of single-sex colleges in promoting the
attainment of women in STEM careers” (p. 5).
According to Malcom and Malcom (2011):
“In 1975, women earned just below 20 percent of all doc-
torates awarded to African Americans, Latinos, and Ame-
rican Indians. By 2008, this figure had risen dramatically,
to more than 57 percent… White women, however, con-
tinue to earn less than half of STEM doctorates awarded
to the White population. Though the fact that minority
women earn a majority of STEM doctorates awarded to
underrepresented minorities appears to be positive on its
face, much of this progress is an artifact of the minority
male crisis in higher education; there is a significant de-
cline in participation levels and degree attainment, espe-
cially among African American males… For example,
African American women achieved parity with their male
counterparts in receipt of MD degrees in the late 1980s;
but these women now constitute a supermajority, receiv-
ing over 66 percent of total MDs awarded to African
Americans in the class of 2010…” (pp. 166-167).
In addition, the increase in the foreign-born Black population
in the United States from Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia
and Latin America have also contributed to the visible increase
in the attainment of science and engineering degrees by Black
Americans. For example, from 1999 to 2001, of the 34,649 non
US-citizen doctorate recipients in the United States, 1515 (4.4%)
were from Africa, and from 2002 to 2008, of the 89,323 non
US-citizen (excluding Permanent Residents) doctorate recipe-
ents in the United States, 3305 (3.7%) were from Africa. Also,
there were 37,796 students from sub-Saharan Africa in the
United States during the 2007-2008 academic year (Kaba, 2011a:
p. 188; also see Baker & Lutz, 2009).
One major criticism of women, minorities and Blacks in par-
ticular in higher education in the United States has been that
they tend to earn most of their degrees in the field of education
and not the “hard sciences” or engineering. McKillip (2001)
notes that: “… minority graduate students have traditionally not
done doctoral work in the sciences and humanities but have
concentrated in education” (p. 2). Kulis et al. (2000) note that:
“Black students earning doctorates remain heavily concentrated
in just a few fields, especially education, psychology, certain
social sciences, and biology” (p. 191). Kulis et al. (2000) con-
tinued by explaining that in 1976, 59% of doctorates awarded
to Blacks were in education, and that by 1995, it declined to 42
percent. In the natural sciences, they note that the figures were
small in both percentages and actual numbers. “Even in the
early and mid-1990s, fewer than a dozen black Ph.D.s gradu-
ated annually in the fields of physics/astronomy, geoscience,
mathematics, and most branches of engineering” (p. 191).
Throughout the 1980s 2092 Ph.D.s were awarded in computer
science and that Black students earned only 14 of that total (p.
Some authors have observed, however, that there have been
so much emphasis placed on achievement in science and engi-
neering that many predominantly Black schools lack the neces-
sary numbers of teachers. Writing on the decline of the number
of minority school teachers, Place et al. (1996) point out that
just as a lower proportion of Black students enroll in college, so
also are fewer of those in college major in the field of education.
They point out that the proportion of Black undergraduate stu-
dents who majored in education declined from 23% in 1966 to
6.8% in 1978 (p. 44). Place et al. (1996) also claim that per-
sonal satisfaction was among the reasons provided by minority
students for majoring in education (p. 48). Shipp (1999) also
adds that education majors choose their careers in order to con-
tribute to society (p. 346). According to Shipp (1999), research
shows that the decline in enrollment of Black students in edu-
cation is due to the increase in career opportunities that are now
available in other fields “… considered more lucrative and
prestigious than teaching” (p. 343). Shipp (1999) notes of one
major negative stigma that has been placed on Black students
who major in the field of education: “Furthermore, to many of
today’s African American college students, a career in teaching
is perceived as a career of a bygone era that reflected a lack of
options…” (pp. 343-344).
Thompson (1994) points out that Black students attaining
master’s degrees in education declined by a third between 1981
and 1991, but the number of those who majored in engineering
increase by 80 percent. For those majoring in master’s degree
programs in business, their numbers increased by 50%, while it
increased by 18% for those in master’s in health-related profes-
sions (p. 10).
Factors Responsible for the Slow Growth in the
Gains in Science and Engineering Degrees by
Black Americans
Scholars and authors have pointed out, however, that despite
the progress Black Americans have made in higher education,
they continue to lack adequate representation in a number of
important fields including science and engineering. Solorzano
(1995) points out that “… Blacks are underrepresented in all
fields of graduate school, especially the sciences and engineer-
ing…” (p. 16). Kulis et al. (2000) point out that: “Although
black students are earning an ever expanding share of bacca-
laureate degrees granted in the United States, most fields show
only minuscule improvements in their sparse representation
among graduate degree recipients” (p. 187). According to Perna
et al. (2009): “Even with this growth, however, African Ameri-
cans continue to represent a smaller share of bachelor’s degree
recipients in science and engineering fields than of all bache-
lor’s degree recipients… Moreover, the representation of Afri-
can Americans declines as degree level increases” (p. 2; also
see Eugene & Clark, 2012: pp. 45-48).
An extensive research of scholarly or academic articles by
this author identified over two dozen interrelated or intercom-
nected factors that have been cited for what many consider a
slow rate of progress by Blacks in science and engineering
education in the United States. Among these interrelated factors
are: the history of Slavery of Black Africans and Jim Crow in
the United States and the entire Americas and Colonialism in
Africa; wealth accumulation or family income/poverty; inade-
quate scientific equipments or tools or facilities; admission
policies; weeding out of science courses; hidden curriculum;
culture; faculty mentor; research experience; financial support
such as grants; retention; science and engineering climate, cul-
ture or environment for Black students; feeling of not belonging;
scientific self-efficacy or academic sense of self; college major
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 75
choice; personal drive or efforts; high school preparation or
achievement in science and engineering; early interest as a
young person and aspirations; peer support or collaboration
with peers or faculty; social and racial stigma; science stigma;
psychological barriers; academic support services or enrich-
ment programs; family and community support; family aca-
demic background including science and engineering or parents
involvement; science and engineering mentorship and role
models; and networking or outreach (Ashby, 1964; Beoku-
Betts, 2004; Bozick, 2007; Eugene & Clark, 2012; Green &
Glasson, 2009; Haynes, 2002; Hurtado et al., 200 9; JBHE, 2002;
Kerlin, 1995; Kulis et al., 2000; Livingston & Wirt, 2004; Mal-
com & Malcom, 2011; Ma, 20091; Marra et al., 2012; Mullen,
2003; Ong et al., 2011; Perna et al., 2009; Porter and Bronzaft,
1995; Shipp, 1999; Slaton, 2010; Slovacek et al., 2011; Smith,
2003). Let us examine some of these factors. In some instances
some of these interrelated factors are merged.
History of Slavery of Black Africans and Jim
Crow in the United States and the Entire
Americas and Colonialism in Africa
Due to Slavery, Jim Crow and Colonialism, most Blacks in
the United States were prevented by law to attain education.
This means that once they had the opportunity, it would take a
substantial period of time for them to catch up especially with
their White counterparts. Even when they began attending
schools after the Civil War, many of the Black schools lacked
the types of academic equipments, resources and facilities (such
as biology, physics and chemistry laboratories) needed to be
successful or proficient in science and engineering. The inte-
gration of schools and colleges in the post-World War II period
helped to improve their condition, but as the data show, to be
forced to start several hundreds of years behind all racial groups
makes it extremely difficult to catch up. Black people in Africa
and other parts of the world and people in the developing world
also experienced similar situation where lack of school materi-
als led to underperformance in science and engineering, but
they were very successful in producing social scientists or hu-
manists (Ashby, 1964; Beoku-Betts, 2004; Slaton, 2010). For
example, Beoku-Betts (2004) claimed that the continuous poor
quality of science education and the insufficient numbers of
professors in African universities are significant contributors to
the lack of inadequate numbers of scientists in those African
societies. “On many university campuses, classes are overcrow-
ded and students have to stand outside lecture halls or report
early to their classrooms in order to secure a seat” (pp. 117-
118). Smith (2003) points out that among the many explana-
tions that have been provided for the under representation of
Black American males in particular in science, mathematics
and engineering is “inadequate secondary education facilities
and resources” (p. 62). In their study of minority students and
their involvement in science and engineering education, Hur-
tado et al. (2009) present this account of a Black student from
Xavier University, an HBCU located in New Orleans, Louisi-
“A student at Xavier spoke of the frustrations he has had
in dealing with others who underestimate the value of his
education at an HBCU. While he attended another institu-
tion after Hurricane Katrina, he found himself talking
about different types of campuses with peers at his surro-
gate university:
‘[T]hey brought up the difference between HBCUs
and Ivy League schools or regular schools and that’s
when it first hit me I guess… generally HBCUs may
not get as much funding as state [schools or other
places], so they’re not as equipped as other schools
and you see that. When I went from… the lab in
Xavier’s classroom… to [a university in Texas] and
I go to the lab in their classroom, they [had] an in-
cubator almost the size of half of our class [at Xa-
vier]… so there’s definitely a difference.’” (pp. 206-
Haynes (2002) notes that because it was relatively recently
that higher education was mostly closed off to people of color,
it should not be a surprise that so few of them sought doctorate
degrees in programs such as biology, physics or computer sci-
ence. Instead, according to Haynes, they choose degrees in “…
business/management, engineering, law and medicine—careers
that often posses deeper historical ties to communities and a
tradition of advocacy for social and political change for all
Americans” (p. 4). According to the JBHE (2002), throughout
the history of the United States, it is unlikely for one to find
Black Americans on any list of potential young scientists. Part
of the reason is that for a long period of time, Blacks were al-
most absent in the hard sciences in graduate programs. “Instead,
young blacks with scientific inclination were funneled into
graduate programs in education where in many cases they
would be trained to teach other blacks” (p. 55; also see Slaton,
2010). For those Blacks who majored in the hard sciences, they
enrolled mostly in medical school where they were trained as
physicians to care for other Blacks in the inner cities or the
rural Southern United States. “Rarely was a black person en-
couraged to pursue doctoral studies in physics, astronomy,
chemistry, biology, mathematics, or computer science” (JBHE,
2002: p. 55).
Wealth Accumulation or Family
Just as participating in certain sports (example, Golf and
Polo) can cost substantial amounts of money or financial in-
vestments, so too one must expect to invest in studying science
and engineering fields. According to Kaba (2008), of the 37
million people in poverty in the United States in 2004, 9 mil-
lion (24.3%) were Black (pp. 316-317; also see Kaba, 2011b).
In 2009, of the 96.190 million households with White males,
20.216 million (21%) had income under $10,000; 35.137 mil-
lion (35.4%) out of 99.380 million households with White fe-
males; 6.167 million (38.4%) out of 16.054 million households
with Black females; and 5.020 million (37.7%) out of 13.314
million households with Black males11.
Livingston and Wirt (2004) point out that in 1999-2000, high
school students in high poverty schools were more likely than
their peers in low-poverty schools to be taught English, Science,
and Mathematics by teachers without a major in the field. It
was a similar situation with students in high-minority schools
compared with their peers in low-minority schools (p. 14). Ac-
11“Table 705. Money Income of People—Number by Income Level and by
Sex, Race and Hispanics origin: 2009,” 2011. Statistical Abstract of the
United States. US Census Bureau. Retrieved on 7 June 2012 from: http:// i a/statab/2012/tables/12s0705.pdf.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
cording to Eugene and Clark (2012), “One factor is that learn-
ers of African descent do not always begin at the same place as
middle-class White students” (p. 47; also see Bozick, 2007;
Mullen et al., 2003). Ma (2009) points out that:
“Cumulative research has highlighted the consistent role
of family SES [Socioeconomic Status] in maintaining
educational advantages for children. In the area of educa-
tional transition… research has found that family influ-
ences remain strong at the higher levels of educational
transitions. Within the same level of education, studies on
secondary school tracking attest to the similar role of fam-
ily SES in maintaining education advantages… Socio-
economically advantaged parents can secure for their
children the best positions within the educational tracking
structure” (p. 213; also see Smith, 2003: p. 62).
In is useful to point out that due primarily to economic hard-
ship, in the 1980s, there was a significant decline in graduate
degree attainment of Black Americans, especially Black males.
In 1978, 4.3% Black Americans earned doctorates, and by 1993,
it declined to 4.2 percent (Kerlin, 1995: p. 12). Porter and
Bronzaft (1995) point out that: “From 1982 to 1992, the num-
ber of Black men earning doctorates declined by 20%…” (p.
162). These declines have an impact on the rate of earned sci-
ence and engineering degrees by Black Americans.
Student-Faculty Relations/Mentorship and
Role Models
Student-faculty relations and mentorship have been cited as
important contributors to improving the slow growth in the
earning of science and engineering degrees by Blacks in the
United States. Students can gain research experience with fac-
ulty mentors and faculty can also serve as role models. Faculty
mentors can also help students identify additional role models.
In the instance of doctoral education, this could be identifying
members of a student’s dissertation committee. As Ong et al.
(2011) note, “The literature presented a mixed review of stu-
dent-faculty relationships. For some women of color, their
gender, race, and ethnicity were seen as major barriers to being
perceived as serious students by their professors… For other
women, professors played a critical role in making a STEM
career a reality” (p. 185). Smith (2003) points out that another
factor contributing to the slow progress of Blacks earning sci-
ence and engineering degrees is “a shortage of positive mentors
to promote their interests in mathematics, science, and engi-
neering” (p. 62). Malcom and Malcom (2011) also point out
“In the original publication of The Double Bind, a great
deal of emphasis was placed on increasing the number of
minority women postsecondary faculty in STEM fields.
Doing so, it was believed, would result in a greater num-
ber of role models for minority women (and for minority
men and White women) undergraduate and graduate stu-
dents pursuing STEM, thereby facilitating their retention,
persistence, and degree completion. Census data from
1970, the only faculty data available at the time of the
publication of the report, reveal that just over 1400 mi-
nority women taught in the STEM fields in US colleges
and universities” (pp. 167-168).
According to Slovacek et al. (2011):
“Multiple studies… stress the importance of student-fac-
ulty interaction on retention and student success. As with
the research experiences themselves, relationships with
faculty mentors can aid in the incorporation of students
into the academic/scientific community. For minority stu-
dents whose mentor is also a minority, that relationship
can serve as a powerful reminder that the prevailing
stereotypes of minorities in the sciences can be overcome”
(p. 6).
It is noted that: “An important factor in increasing the num-
ber of blacks in the sciences is the establishment of role models
and mentors. Black faculty members in the hard sciences at our
top universities serve to encourage black students to enter and
succeed in these fields” (Anonymous, 2009: p. 36). Hurtado et
al. (2009) present this quote from a male student in their study:
“Indeed, participants across all focus groups were quick to
acknowledge the role of research programs in allowing
them not only to gain experience, but to do so at a high
level, perhaps higher than what they would otherwise be
afforded. According to a male… student:
I mean, it’s not like we wouldn’t ever have been
able to get experience in a lab without the MARC or
IMSD programs… but… they definitely provide us
this research experience… it’s a more directed re-
search experience. Instead of just helping out some
dude with his research, we’re being taught this with
the intent of us eventually being the ones coming up
with these questions, writing these grants, and sub-
mitting papers for publication” (p. 198).
Of the 1986 Black American citizens and Black permanent
residents who earned their doctorates in 2009 in the United
States, 11.9% had research assistantships/traineeship; 22.2%
out of 22,933 White citizens and White permanent residents;
and 32.1% out of 2514 Asian American citizens and Asian
American permanent residents. Also, 9.5% of Black citizens
and Black permanent residents had teaching assistantships;
17.8% for White citizens and White permanent residents; and
14.8% for Asian American citizens and Asian permanent resi-
Perna et al. (2009) present this account about Spelman Col-
lege (an all Black women’s institution) students and their ac-
cess to role models:
“After enrolling, students continue to see examples of
Spelman’s success in educating African American women
in STEM fields. For example, a few participants note that
some faculty members illustrate Spelman’s success by in-
viting alumnae ‘to come back and tell the other sisters
what they are doing now.’ Among other potential benefits,
these alumnae visits convey to current students that Spel-
man provides high-quality preparation for graduate and
professional school in STEM fields. In the words of a par-
ticipating faculty member:
We have students who come back and there’s al-
ways talk about how students can look back and see
12“Table 32. Doctorate recipients’ primary source of financial support, by
broad field of study, sex, citizenship, and race/ethnicity: 2009,” Doctorate
Recipients from US Universities. National Science Foundation. Retrieved on
12 May 2012 from:
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 77
that he or she [a particular instructor] was not that
hard—they were demanding—but when they get
there with students from other institutions they find
out that they can compete, that they have been ex-
posed to some of the same things” (p. 9).
Perna et al. (2009) continue by presenting this account on
support from faculty at Spelman College:
“Participants uniformly report that Spelman’s faculty
members ‘do everything they can’ to promote the attain-
ment of African American women in STEM fields. A re-
view of participants’ comments suggests at least five ways
that Spelman faculty members encourage students’ aca-
demic success. First, faculty members assume that all
Spelman students in STEM courses can achieve their
educational goals. In a representative comment from one
faculty participant, ‘I feel that if they have been admitted
to Spelman, they are capable.’ Second, faculty members
not only believe that all Spelman women can be aca-
demically successful but also intentionally work to ensure
that students share this belief. A math professor suggests
that such efforts are particularly important given stereo-
types about women’s ability to be successful in math and
science fields. In the professor’s words:
I want to build their self-esteem and their self-con-
fidence. Math is one of those fields that, sometimes,
women can be intimidated by and I need to let them
know that they can do math. They can do anything
they set their minds to” (p. 13; also see Towns, 2010).
Science and Engineering Culture/Climate
and Sense of Belonging
One of the most common factors cited as contributing to the
slow success in science and engineering degree attainment by
Black Americans is the culture, climate or environment of those
academic fields, and Blacks’ sense of belonging in them—the
ever prevalence of culture and race in human existence. Marra
et al. (2012) point out that:
“The perceived ‘climate’ in engineering programs con-
tributes to students’ feelings of belongingness and can be
either detrimental or enabling to their retention in those
programs. Climate may be described in several ways.
Campus climate refers to the attitudes, perceptions, and
expectations associated with an institution… [they cited a
group of scholars by explaining that] In engineering, …
the term “chilly climate”… [describes] educational prac-
tices and environments that treat women and men differ-
ently and that have an adverse impact on women and oth-
ers… Our finding of lack of belonging as a factor contrib-
uting to students’ decisions to leave engineering may be
related to students’ feelings of their self-efficacy (or the
lack of efficacy) in engineering” (pp. 8 & 19).
According to Hurtado et al. (2009):
“The emergent ‘culture of science’ may inhibit the devel-
opment of URM [Underrepresented Minorities] research
scientists, especially when it affects their notions of com-
petence that are central to their developing identity of
‘becoming a scientist’ (i.e., the potentially adverse impact
of negative external messages on URM academic success).
It is important to study how underrepresented students
successfully navigate exclusion and their unique repre-
sentation in science on their path toward becoming a sci-
entist” (p. 193).
Hurtado et al. (2009) point out that: “When describing the
competitive nature within the culture of science, students high-
lighted both positive and negative experiences. A number of
students referenced how peers in different majors are more
competitive than others” (p. 203). They continue by pointing
out that:
“Competitive and academically intimidating cultures of
science were not unexpected given the reputation of scie-
nce teaching and learning processes… Indeed, students
further experience and face social stigma, particularly as it
relates to their racial/ethnic background and aspirations as
scientists. Students in our focus groups identified at least
three types of stigma-related challenges they face that
mainly refer to external, negative perceptions or judg-
ments that others may hold of them. These include the
negative associations stemming from students’ involve-
ment in minority-based science research programs, feeling
the general need to validate their academic competence as
URM students, and the specific need to affirm their iden-
tities as science students” (p. 204).
Hurtado et al. (2009) point out that:
“Another male student explained the uniqueness of at-
tending an HBCU for him by recounting his transfer to
Xavier from a predominantly White university:
I felt so disconnected from everybody, not necessar-
ily because it was a racial difference, but just the
motivational factor. I didn’t feel motivated, I felt as
if I was just a social security number, so I decided to
come to Xavier and that’s when I felt at home, you
know, because I got individual attention, I got moti-
vation, I was able to see professors that were African
American, biochemistry Ph.D. professors, people
that look like me, which motivated me to say, ‘OK, I
can do this. It’s possible for me not only to get an
undergraduate degree, but also to pursue a higher
level degree,’ so it’s the motivational factor that I
would say an HBCU provides” (p. 207).
On the issue of gender and science and engineering, Ong et
al. (2011) note that:
“Many of the studies we found highlighted measures of
the STEM climate as central to the experience of women
of color pursuing undergraduate STEM majors. Theoreti-
cal discussions of climate-often described as ‘chilly’-ad-
dressed evidence that women were treated differently
from men by science faculty and peers… Yet the inclu-
sion of racial and ethnic discrimination presents an ever
more complicated environment for women of color. Sev-
eral studies specifically demonstrated the gender and ra-
cial/ethnic bias that women of color experience on a
day-to-day basis as STEM majors, situating them in a
unique position of confronting multiple systems of op-
pression” (p. 182; also see Eugene & Clark, 2012: pp. 46-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
High School Preparation and Academic
Course Selection
High School preparation, including strategic course taking
has been identified as a contributing factor to increasing the
rates in enrollment and degree attainment in science and engi-
neering degrees by Black Americans and students in general.
Marra et al. (2012) point out that:
“Preparation for difficult course material. Concerns re-
garding students’ level of preparation for engineering pro-
grams have been long considered in the literature…
preparation in quantitative and analytical skills in high
school was a strong indicator of interest in an engineering
career… The perception that high school preparation is
related to the academic factors is in alignment with prior
research that shows the importance of students’ prepara-
tion for studying engineering” (pp. 8 & 20).
Hurtado et al. (2009) note of the students in their study:
“A majority of the participants described their predispo-
sitions toward science as occurring before college entry
(although, as will be discussed later, the college experi-
ence has greatly influenced students’ continued interest
and retention in these fields). Many students had an initial
fascination with some facet of science (e.g., stars or but-
terflies developing in cocoons), which sparked intellectual
curiosity at an early age. As one MIT female explained, ‘I
was just always interested in how things worked and I al-
ways… I guess I dreamed of getting to a point where I
didn’t have to ask people how things worked… so I
wanted to get the tools to be able to figure that stuff out
on my own… As expressed by an MIT female student,
‘Along the way, I had a couple of teachers, particularly
some female teachers, that really encouraged me to get
into science and math.’ This encouragement offered by
teachers perhaps strengthened students’ self-efficacy, en-
couraging students to eventually pursue science majors in
college” (p. 198).
According to Perna et al. (2009):
“Educational attainment in a STEM field depends, at least
in part, on the adequacy of prior academic preparation and
achievement. … efforts to ensure the readiness of the US
workforce for the projected growth in science and engi-
neering occupations must include improvements in K-12
math and science preparation. Two sources that contribute
to low levels of math and science preparation especially
for minority and low-income students are the insufficient
availability of rigorous math and science coursework and
a dearth of qualified math and science teachers in the high
school attended…” (p. 3).
According to Ong et al. (2011): “A common finding across
empirical research on women of color in graduate STEM pro-
grams is that the students were active, or planned on being ac-
tive, in reaching out to other women-younger students and fel-
low women of color-to draw them into and retain them in
STEM fields” (pp. 195-196). Ong et al. (2011) also quoted a
scholar discussing the efforts of a Black American doctoral
student in engineering to motivate young high school students:
“Grace believes in being a role model… for those coming
up die ranks in engineering. She knows just how impor-
tant it is to encourage younger women of color to fields in
STEM. She is excited about teaching and embraces the
challenge and joy that comes in helping others to realize
their dreams as her own dreams become a reality” (pp.
195-196; also see Ma, 2009).
It has also been noted that:
“From an early age black students appear to be directed
away from the study of the hard sciences. Many white
teachers and guidance counselors continue to believe that
black students do not possess sufficient cognitive abilities
to comprehend advanced scientific concepts. As a result,
African Americans are steered away from courses in
which their teachers and counselors believe the black stu-
dents would not be able to compete on a level playing
field with their white peers” (Anonymous, 2009: p. 36).
According to Smith (2003), another factor contributing to the
underrepresentation of Blacks in science and engineering is
“low expectations from teachers and school counselors regard-
ing their academic abilities” (p. 62).
Family and Community Support
Family and community support are cited as contributing fac-
tors to Black Americans’ effort to increase their degree attain-
ment rates in science and engineering. According to Hurtado et
al. (2009):
“From not being expected to excel in the sciences, to not
having full familial support, to being branded as a ‘sci-
ence nerd,’ several students expressed the difficulties of
developing a solid science identity. For instance, a male
student… recounted:
In my own experience, I find that… where I was
raised, you weren’t expected to get a Ph.D. or any-
thing like that. Just you were expected to work hard.
You know, the best you could do was maybe get a
job with the government, but that expectation wasn’t
there. In fact, you were expected not to do that
well… and everything was like a pecking order and
then the guy that always got the straight A’s, he was
the one that was going to go to med school or get his
PhD or go into engineering, but that expectation was
never there [for me]. And then when I started going
to college, I started getting a lot more self-confi-
dence in myself, especially when I saw how well I
did in my classes.
A female… student spoke about having to explain to her
family her goals to pursue an advanced degree in science:
“Why would you want to be in school that long?
That’s too much hard work. Why would you do
that?” is what I get from my family mostly, other
than my mother… she’s gone to college, she’s the
only one that’s gone to college… who can see that I
should do more… more school is better, but I get a
lot of the just… they don’t understand why I would
want to do it.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 79
A male Xavier student shared, “I guess in general with
people, they seem to kind of have a puzzled look on their
face when I tell them what I want to do. It’s like, ‘OK, a
chemist. Really? Really?’” Another Xavier student talked
about the reactions she has seen from friendly acquaint-
[T]he people at the beauty shop, they’re like, “So
you’re going to be a doctor, right?” I’m like, “Yeah,
I’ll be a doctor [as in Ph.D.]. Now if you get sick, I
can’t help you. I mean, maybe I could synthesize
some drug, and that’s a big maybe, but outside of
that, you should go to the hospital,” and they’re like,
“Oh, OK.” It’s like they don’t understand” (pp. 208-
According to Ong et al. (2011):
“Family and community support is perhaps the most sali-
ent and influential factor that women of color identify as
encouraging to their completion of a STEM degree… Fa-
milial support, however, can also be seen as a force that
pulls women away from STEM. Some students found that
their families questioned their long-term goals of becom-
ing a scientist, and they also faced pressure to contribute
to the family financially, to provide child care, and/or to
uphold traditional female ideals of marrying and raising a
family… science identity model for women of color
stresses the importance of recognition by others as mean-
ingful in women’s lives. These “others” could be those in
the scientific community, but, for some women, their fa-
milies and communities played a dominant role in how
they saw and pushed themselves to succeed. One of the
women in the study stated:
We have the pressure from our communities, so it’s
really hard for me to go home with bad grades. And
that’s the pressure people of color have, is we have
to bring something back to our community that will
be helpful… They’re watching us. We have that
pressure to do well. And that’s a good pressure” (pp.
186-187; also see Ma, 2009).
Financial Support/Grants
Financial support in the form of grants or graduate assistant-
ships have also contributed to the slow growth in degree at-
tainment in science and engineering by Black Americans. Ac-
cording to Slovcek et al. (2011):
“Financial support is of particular importance, given that
while URMs are more likely to receive aid than their
Caucasian or Asian peers, the aid they receive is on aver-
age less… in investigating the factors related to retention
in the engineering program at Michigan State University,
reported that African American students on average worked
twice as many hours outside the university to finance their
education, which negatively impacted their studies as a
result” (p. 6).
Of the 1986 Black American citizens and Black permanent
residents who earned their doctorates in 2009 in the United
States, 32.9% had fellowships/grants; 28.8% out of 22,933
White citizens and White permanent residents; and 34% out of
2514 Asian American citizens and Asian American permanent
residents. Also, 40% of Black citizens and Black permanent
residents used their own resources to earn their degrees; 26.1%
for White citizens and White permanent residents; and 15% for
Asian American citizens and Asian permanent residents13.
According to Perna et al. (2009): “Participants [in their study]
identify four types of challenges that limit the educational and
occupational attainment of Black women in STEM fields: aca-
demic, psychological, social, and financial… Financial chal-
lenges may be especially great for the small share of Spelman
students who are “non-traditional,” e.g., commuting rather than
residential students; students who are financially independent
rather than dependent on their parents; and students who trans-
fer into Spelman” (pp. 9-11). According to Ong et al. (2011):
“The costs associated with graduate education (e.g., tuition,
textbooks) as well as costs of living while in graduate school
(e.g., housing, meals, and, in some cases, child care) are impor-
tant factors in recruiting and retaining students in STEM” (p.
192; also see Ma, 2009).
Personal Drive/Weeding Out Science
Courses/Hidden Curri culum
Finally, it has also been noted that Personal Drive, Weeding
Out Science Courses, Admission Policies, and Hidden Cur-
riculum all contribute to whether Black Americans make sub-
stantial achievements in science and engineering education.
Pertaining to Personal Drive, Ong et al. (2011) point out that:
“… the personal agency and drive of women of color develop
greatly during the undergraduate years. … African American
women… expressed their persistence in math as having to do
with personal interests and agency” (p. 88). According to Perna
et al. (2009), studies have illustrated: “… that selfefficacy is
positively related to students’ expectations of earning a bache-
lor’s degree in engineering, interest in engineering-related ac-
tivities, and plans to major in engineering” (p. 4).
Pertaining to Weeding Out Science Courses, Green and
Glasson (2009) point out that:
Regardless of the factors, the talents of many African
Americans who would have majored and persisted in sci-
ence-related majors are wasted due to institutional factors
that discourage their involvement at predominately white
institutions. For example, many freshmen who declare
scientific majors at predominately white institutions find
themselves struggling due to a design that “weeds” them
out… The design is hierarchical in nature because it is
structured to only let the best students continue on, while
simultaneously weeding out those students whose aca-
demic abilities are allegedly deficient. These students ei-
ther fail or change majors altogether… (p. 367).
Finally, on the issue of a Hidden Curriculum, Green and
Glasson (2009) also point out that: “The hidden curriculum
includes influential messages about the norms of society and
people’s positions within society, and many times these subtle
messages accompany the required curriculum in many class-
rooms” (p. 370). Green and Glasson (2009) quoted a scholar
13“Table 32. Doctorate recipients’ primary source of financial support, by
broad field of study, sex, citizenship, and race/ethnicity: 2009,” Doctorate
Recipients from US Universities. National Science Foundation. Retrieved on
12 May 2012 from:
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
who noted that:
“Since the hidden curriculum is taught (implicitly) through
the kinds of participatory mechanisms that work so pow-
erfully in out-of-school contexts, it is not surprising that
sometimes the messages about social class and social
roles in the hidden curriculum are understood by students
more deeply than the messages about scientific concepts
in the explicit curriculum…” (p. 370).
This article began by pointing out that Black Americans have
made substantial progress in the post 1960s era. It claims that
today Black Americans can be found in almost all important
sectors of American society, including the office of the Presi-
dency of the country. The article notes that the most important
achievement of all is the substantial increase in the life expec-
tancy of Black Americans. The primary reason behind this ex-
traordinary progress of Black Americans is higher education
The article presents college enrollment data of Black Ameri-
cans, illustrating that by 2010, not only have their college en-
rollment rates increased substantially, but that Black females
are second only to Asian males in enrollment among all groups
and sub-groups in the country. The college degree attainment
data showed that by 2011, there are over 3.2 million Black
people in the United States with at least a bachelor’s degree.
The article also points out that Black Americans have made
substantial gains in increasing their college enrollment and
degree attainment rates in science and engineering. The article
presents the factors responsible for this progress in science and
engineering. Finally, the article also notes that although Black
Americans have made substantial gains in science and engi-
neering, their growth in these fields is relatively low compared
with other racial and cultural groups in the country. A number
of factors are then presented for this low growth in science and
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