Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Doctorates by Discipline and Ethnicity

A recent article in Inside Higher Education touched on a subject I've written a lot about on my other blog (the one with more words than pictures), specifically the role of standardized tests, in this case the GRE in selection of students for graduate programs.  The article cites another article in Nature blaming the dearth of minority and women doctoral graduates in science and engineering, at least in part, on the GRE.

For anyone who is at least knee-deep in the debate about the value of standardized tests, the arguments are familiar ones: Too much emphasis on the tests means that too many candidates with strong potential are being overlooked, especially when you consider the predictive validity of the tests.  The authors are pretty blunt: " The GRE is a better indicator of sex and skin colour than of ability and ultimate success."

So, in light of that, take a look at this data on 2012 Ph.D. recipients, which was downloaded from the NSF Survey of Earned Doctorates.  The patterns are obvious: The two groups who score the highest on the ACT, the SAT, and the GRE--Asians and Caucasians--dominate the newly minted Ph.D. classes.

And if you assume that there is a need to get minority canididates into faculty roles at colleges and universities to effect change in this area, you see even more cause for concern.  For instance, take a look at the production of African-American Ph.D.s in areas like math or computer science.  When you consider that there are about 2500 public and private degree-granting institutions in this country, you see how unlikely the chances are that things will turn around quickly.