Article InformationEdit

Title: The STEM Doctoral Degree Trends of Asians in the United States

Author(s): Yu Tao

Affiliation: Georgia Institute of Technology

Presented At: STiS 2008

Primary Topic Area: STEM Education


The doctoral degree production in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields is important to a nation’s innovation. In the United States, Asians as a whole are overrepresented in STEM fields. Asian immigrants in STEM fields have attracted much scholarly attention, yet Asians U.S. citizens are understudied. However, they have different degree production patterns. For one, most Asians receiving STEM doctorates are Asians on temporary visas. Furthermore, the number and the percentage of doctoral degrees in STEM fields granted to Asian U.S. citizens and permanent residents increased and peaked in 1995, declined considerably from 1996 to 2004, and started to increase again in 2005. The decline may be problematic if it leads to the underrepresentation of Asians, especially Asian U.S. citizens and permanent residents, in certain fields. This study compares the STEM doctoral degree trends from 1986 to 2005 among Asian U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and temporary visa holders by sex and field and discusses the challenges in retaining and increasing Asians’ participation in STEM in a national and global context. STEM fields in this study include computer sciences and mathematics, biological sciences, physical sciences, psychology, social sciences, and engineering. While scholars argue for the increasing participation of women and underrepresented minorities in STEM fields, we also need to examine the doctoral degree trends of the understudied Asian Americans. Data are obtained from the public-use version of the National Science Foundation’s Survey of Earned Doctorates, 1986–2005.

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