Investigating the Dearth of Black Males Among Science and Math Ph.Ds

By Julianne Hing Oct 28, 2014

This week, the Chronicle of Higher Education published a suite of articles examining an enduring phenomena of academia: the dearth of black men in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. Far from being a great mystery, the troublingly low numbers of black men in science and math fields is a well-tracked, if entrenched, issue. In 1992, black men received 138 of the more than 11,000 STEM doctorate degrees awarded in the U.S. In 2012, they were only 334 of 16,545 STEM doctorate degree graduates, The Chronicle of Higher Ed reported.

Stacey Patton, writing for The Chronicle, tracks some of the myriad contributing factors, as well as experts’ frustration with the undertones of the discourse:

Among the factors are academic and cultural isolation, the difficulty of performing in the face of negative stereotypes and low expectations among faculty members, a lack of mentors of color and friendship networks, concerns about financial debt, inadequate advising and emotional support during times of stress, and lack of exposure to hands-on research.

Some scholars have also argued, in reports and academic journals over the years, that the movement to broaden minority participation has tended to focus more on "fixing" the black male student than on addressing the structural and institutional forces that undermine his academic achievement and sense of belonging on campus.

The numbers have improved over the years, but are still a long way off from parity with blacks’ representation in the U.S. population. In 1992, 4 percent of those who earned doctorate degrees science and engineering were black, and 3 percent were Latino, according to the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. In 2012, blacks made up 6 percent of those who received science or engineering doctorate degrees, while Latinos made up 7 percent. 

Head to the Chronicle of Higher Ed for their suite of articles on the topic.