(National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine, 2011), Hrabowski pointed out that the proportion of underrepresented minorities in the natural sciences and engineering was less than a third of their share of the overall population in 2006 (National Science Foundation, 2011). In other words, the proportion of underrepresented minorities in science and engineering would need to triple to match their representation in the overall U.S. population.
This underrepresentation of minorities in the science and engineering workforce stems from the underproduction of minorities in science and engineering at every level of the pathways from elementary school to higher education and the workplace. Though underrepresented minorities now account for almost 40 percent of K-12 students in the United States, they earn only 27 percent of the associateâ€™s degrees from community colleges, only 17 percent of the bachelorâ€™s degrees in the natural sciences and engineering, and only 6.6 percent of the doctorates in those fields.
President Obama has called on the United States to increase its postsecondary completion rate from 39 percent to 58–60 percent by the year 2020.1 The challenge in doing so is greatest for minorities who are underrepresented in science and engineering. According to 2006 data, of Americans aged 25 to 34, only about one quarter of African Americans, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders had earned at least an associateâ€™s degree, and fewer than one in five Hispanics had reached this educational level.
In 2000, the United States ranked 20th in the world in the percentage of 24-year-olds who had earned a first college degree in the natural sciences and engineering, Hrabowski noted. The report Rising Above the Gathering Storm (National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine, 2007) called on the United States to raise the percentage of 24-year-olds with a first degree in the natural sciences and engineering from 6 percent to 10 percent. This would require a tripling, quadrupling, or quintupling of the percentages for underrepresented minorities, which are 2.7 percent for African Americans, 3.3 percent for Native Americans, and 2.2 percent for Latinos.
INTENTIONS AND COMPLETIONS
Since the 1980s, underrepresented minorities have aspired to major in science and engineering at about the same proportions as their white and Asian American peers, Hrabowski observed. Yet they complete STEM degrees in lower proportions than whites and Asian Americans. Five
1For additional information, see http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/completion_state_by_state.pdf.