Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Gender Gap: Black Females Outpace Male Counterparts at Three Degree Levels

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Gender Gap: Black Females Outpace Male Counterparts at Three Degree Levels

Article excerpt

Gender Gap: Black Females Outpace Male Counterparts at Three Degree. Levels

Since the early 1980s, the American Council on Education (ACE) has been collecting and disseminating educational data annually on racial and ethnic minorities. Among its findings in 1996 is that students of color have posted significant gains in college enrollment and the number of degrees they earned -- yet the picture is decidedly mixed for different racial and ethnic minority groups.

One thing is certain -- say the report's co-authors Deborah J. Carter, associate director of ACE's Office of Minorities in Higher Education and Senior Scholar Dr. Reginald Wilson -- the academic gains were largely bolstered by the success of minority women.

But in no racial or ethnic group is the gap as glaring as it is between African-American men and African-American women in the number of degrees earned at each of the three degree levels, maintain Carter and Wilson.

In earlier years, ACE studies have made note of the gender-different degree rates among African Americans. Dr. William Trent, an expert on the impact of race and equity issues on educational attainment, sounded an alarm in the 1991 book, "College in Black and White," when he concluded that special attention needed to be focused on the academic careers of Black males and that gender-different degree rates must be monitored.

Fluctuating Numbers

In the early 90s, Trent, a professor of sociology and educational policy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, wrote of the approaching "feminization of education among Blacks" at the bachelor's and master's degree levels. Says Trent: "The ramifications of such a trend has implications for mate selection and community structure as well as occupational distribution implications given the interaction of racism and sexism in employment."

Based on the findings of the National Study of Black College Students, Trent found that Black women outpaced Black men on all three degree levels for the academic years 1975-76 and 1980-81. In 1975-76, for example, Black women earned 32,952 or 7.9 percent of bachelor's degrees, while Black men earned 25,301 or 5.0 percent. Also that year, Black women earned 12,301 or 8.5 percent of the master's degrees, while men earned 7,611 or 4.6 percent. In that same year, however, the number of Ph.D.s awarded to Black men, 743, exceeded those going to Black women, 426.

Degrees awarded for the 1980-81 academic year follow a similar pattern. As in earlier years, Black women earned fewer Ph.D. degrees -- 571 -- while Black men earned 694.

Science and Engineering Lag

In comparison to earlier years, the degree rates across disciplines for Black men today are "worrisome," say some educators, especially when it comes to doctoral degrees. According to the National Research Council's Survey of Earned Doctorates, the number of Ph.D.s awarded to African-American men increased in 1995 to 482, up from 409 in 1994. African-American women, on the other hand, earned 805 doctorates in 1995, up from 686 the previous year.

While their numbers are improving, minority women, like all women, continue to lag behind in the number of Ph.D.s earned in science and engineering, according to the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, Inc. (NACME) and the National Research Council. …

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