SESTAT surveys. Nonetheless, the ACS data do contain basic information about the occupations and earnings of people with bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering as well as other fields. With the addition of the field-of-degree data, the ACS information could be tabulated to directly support NSF’s mandated indicator reports.
The use of the ACS for this purpose will bring advantages of increased reliability from large sample sizes and significantly improved timeliness, though these advantages are counterbalanced by some loss in detail. The large ACS sample sizes will be particularly valuable when addressing issues of relative employment conditions among rare populations, such as scientists or engineers from groups that have been traditionally underrepresented in S&E fields and occupations. This feature is important, given the NSF mandate to monitor the employment status of women, minorities, and persons with disabilities who have college-level training in S&E fields.
Recommendation 7.1: The National Science Foundation should use current data from the American Community Survey to evaluate the degree to which the American Community Survey with the field-of-degree question would allow for the production of mandated indicator reports in the future.
The ability of NSF to address questions about the S&E workforce beyond the production of indicators will also be enhanced by having the ACS with a field-of-degree question. In the past, analysis of relationships among college major, career choices, and career access were limited to snapshots provided by occasional large surveys. A sufficiently detailed field-of-degree question will enable NSF to track the employment status of rare populations of bachelor’s level scientists and engineers, with relative levels, trends, and fluctuations in both employment and earnings on a continual basis, using the ACS alone.
Because the ACS is a household survey, it further expands the types of analyses that can be done with respect to the S&E workforce. For example, the study of dual-career households is possible with existing ACS data, but only for groups defined by occupation and education level. The field-of-degree question on the ACS will add a new dimension, allowing special consideration of dual-career households in S&E fields. The household data will provide additional analytic opportunities as well, especially with in-depth household information not currently collected on the NSCG.
The timeliness of ACS data will provide annual information on the S&E workforce close to the reference period. These more timely data provide NSF with a powerful new ability to analyze the effects of real-time