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Educating Mathematical Scientists: Doctoral Study and the Postdoctoral Experience in the United States
influential in bringing about a modest increase in federal support for the mathematical sciences. By 1987, however, there was still nothing close to a balance with other fields. In 1987, 75% and 56% of the R&D faculty in physics and chemistry, respectively, received federal support, whereas only 37% of the mathematical sciences R&D faculty received federal support. In that same year, 51% and 49% of the graduate students in physics and chemistry, respectively, received federal support, whereas only 18% of the mathematical sciences graduate students received federal support. A reassessment, Renewing U.S. Mathematics: A Plan for the 1990s (NRC, 1990c), summarized the effects of the 1984 report and argued strongly for the continued need for increasing federal funding.
THE RECENT PAST
In contrast to the preceding three decades of rapid change, the 1980s was a period of stability for the mathematical sciences. In spite of some competition with computer science for students, the number of PhDs awarded annually in the mathematical sciences was roughly constant, decreasing from 839 in the 1980–1981 academic year to a minimum of 726 in the 1984–1985 academic year and then increasing to 1061 in the 1990–1991 academic year. But the trend toward a higher percentage of non-U.S. citizens receiving degrees accelerated sharply. In 1980–1981, 68% of the doctorates granted by U.S. institutions in the mathematical sciences went to U.S. citizens, whereas in 1990–1991, only 43% of the doctorates awarded went to U.S. citizens. Increasing undergraduate enrollments, a booming economy, and retirements provided job opportunities for almost all new PhDs in the decade.