April 27, 2000
Vol. 19 No. 15

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    More women, minorities seek, earn Ph.D.s, according to NORC report

    By William Harms
    News Office

    As a result of a large increase in women and minority-group members seeking graduate education, universities in the United States are awarding increased numbers of Ph.D.s, according to data from the Survey of Earned Doctorates.

    The findings are in a new report prepared by Allen Sanderson, Senior Research Scientist at the National Opinion Research Center, for five federal agencies that sponsor the survey. The 387 universities in the country that grant research doctorates awarded 42,683 Ph.D.s during the 1997-98 academic year, an increase of 32 percent from 1986-87.

    “This marks the 13th consecutive year of increase in the number of doctorates earned, something not seen since the double-digit annual growth period of the 1960s and early 1970s,” said Sanderson, who also is a Senior Lecturer in Economics.

    Sanderson co-authored the report, “Doctorate Recipients from United States Universities: Summary Report 1998,” with NORC researchers Bernard Dugoni, Thomas Hoffer and Lance Selfa. The report, prepared by NORC, is an annual publication of five federal agencies: the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Department of Education and the Department of Agriculture.

    Of the total number of Ph.D. degrees granted, 17,856, or 41.8 percent, went to women, the highest number or percentage ever granted to that group. Among U.S. citizens, women earned 47.7 percent of doctorates during 1997-98. “Twenty years ago, that figure was 29.1 percent,” said Sanderson. “Over the past 40 years, the rate of growth for female doctorates has averaged 7.5 percent per year, compared with just under 3 percent annually for male doctorates. The number of men earning doctorates in 1998 declined for the second straight year,” Sanderson said.

    At the University, 368 people, including 237 men and 131 women, received Ph.D.s in 1996-97, while in 1986-87, 319 Ph.D.s were granted to 231 men and 88 women.

    Growth in the number of Ph.D.s being given in specific fields of study also reflects the impact of women earning advanced degrees. More degrees were given in the life sciences, for instance, where women are more strongly represented than in any other field. In 1998, 20 percent of Ph.D.s were awarded in the life sciences and 15.8 percent of Ph.D.s were granted in the physical sciences and mathematics. By contrast, in 1967, 21.2 percent of Ph.D.s were given in the physical sciences and mathematics, compared to 15.4 percent in the life sciences.

    The total number of U.S. doctorates given to minority-group members in 1998––4,014––was 35.8 percent higher than the figure in 1993 and 89.3 percent higher than the number in 1988. Of those 1998 doctorates, African Americans earned 1,467 doctorates; Hispanics, 1,190; Asians, 1,168; and American Indians and Alaskan Natives, 189.

    During the 10-year period from 1988 to 1998, there was an 89.3 percent increase in Ph.D.s awarded to people from minority groups.

    Like women, minority-group members tended to be attracted to particular fields. Asian-American students are concentrated in the physical and life sciences and engineering, whereas members of other minority groups tend to be concentrated in education and the social sciences.

    Among other findings of the report are these:

    • U.S. citizens received 71.3 percent of all doctorates earned from 1997 to 1998. China was the leading country of origin for foreign students with 2,571 doctorates. Other leading countries of origin were India (1,259), Taiwan (1,100), Korea (710) and Canada (448).

    • About half of the U.S. citizens with Ph.D.s planned to enter academic employment after graduation. About one-fourth were headed for industry or self-employment, and 8.2 percent expected to work for the government.

    “The growth in full-time, tenure-track faculty appointments has not kept pace with the number of Ph.D. graduates, but many of these graduates are finding opportunities in non-academic fields because the job market is so good,” Sanderson said.

    “People also seek the Ph.D. for other reasons, simply because of a love of learning. That interest also is reflected in these numbers.”