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Factors Affecting African American Persistence In The Sciences

1720 words - 7 pages

Science is comprised of fields that investigate the physical and natural world or events dealing with matter, energy, and their interrelations with objectively measurable phenomena (Natural Science). Scientific fields are often subsumed under the umbrella term STEM which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Historically, STEM fields have been void of diversity and largely dominated by White males, leaving minority’s under-represented (Hines 3). Preserving the integrity of these fields is dependent upon diversity because it prevents bias and promotes the contributions different backgrounds bring to academia (Hines 4). Today’s global market requires a growing ...view middle of the document...

Maton, Hrabowski, and Schmitt report that few African Americans have been able to persist and participate in the global economy through the sciences because negative social pressure from peers and authority figures; underrepresentation in gifted and talented programs; discrimination; low college enrollment; few role models in science; and lack of academic confidence work to discourage minority participation (African American College Students Excelling in the Sciences: College and Postcollege Outcome in the Meyeroff Scholars Program 631). In this paper, persistence refers to an individual’s ability to overcome obstacles and earn a degree in the sciences. Using stories and empirical evidence this author will examine the difficult environment through which African Americans are able persist and persevere when supported with access to mentors, participation in science programs, community support, and confidence in their academic ability (Hines 4; Maton, Hrabowski and Schmitt 629).
Current statistics suggest that U.S. rates for enrollment of African Americans in four-year colleges and universities are low, leaving the minority groups unrepresented in colleges across America. Government publication Fast Facts noted that from 1976 to 2010, the percentage of African Americans enrolled in four year colleges increased from 9% to 14% (Department of Education). In 2001, it was reported that 13.3% of the freshmen starting college were African American. By graduation, that number decreased to 9% of the freshmen who were awarded bachelor degrees (Sasso 1). Out of all the bachelor degrees awarded, African Americans make up only 8.8% of those awarded in STEM (Sasso 1).
On the graduate level, the number of degrees awarded by American universities from 1980 to 1990 totaled 278,905 doctorates. Of the 106,592 female doctorates, 5823 (5.5%) were African American women (Solorzano 18). Among the 172,313 male doctorates, 5394 (3.1%) were African American men (Solorzano 18). In 2005, 2.5% of the total doctorates earned in the STEM disciplines were awarded to African Americans. Again, compared to their White counterparts at 43%; this percentage is strikingly low.
Jesse Washington notes in his article STEM Education and Jobs: Declining Numbers of Blacks Seen in Math and Science that in 2009 the African American population was 12% of the U. S. population. At that time, African Americans received 7% of undergraduate degrees, 4% of master’s degrees, and 2% of PhD’s in the STEM disciplines. From community college to PhD level in 2009, the total percentage of STEM degrees received by African Americans was 7.5%, a decrease from the 8.1% reported in 2001. Again, in 2009, African Americans received 1% of the degrees in science technology, and 4% of the degrees in math and statistics. Out of the 5048 PhD’s earned in the physical sciences, 89 of them went to African Americans. This is less than 2% of the total (J. Washington). While African American employment during 1988 was...

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