The Number of American Women Earning Research Doctorates Drops for the Fourth Year in a Row

The National Science Foundation recently released its annual data on research doctoral degree recipients in the United States. Data for the annual Survey of Earned Doctorates shows that universities in the United States conferred 52,250 research doctorates in 2021, down 5.5 percent from 2020. Of these, 24,156, or 46.2 percent, were earned by women. The percentage of all research doctorates earned by women increased slightly in 2021.

If we restrict the data to U.S. citizens and permanent residents of this country, we find that 16,441 women earned doctorates in 2021. This was 51.9 percent of all doctoral recipients among U.S. citizens and permanent residents. The number of U.S. women earning doctorates dropped for the fourth straight year. Since 2017, the number of U.S. women earning doctorates is down by nearly 10 percent. But the number of U.S. men earning doctorates dropped at a slightly higher rate.

In 2021, there was a wide gender disparity in doctoral awards in specific disciplines. For example, women earned 70.8 percent of all doctoral degrees awarded in education and 59.8 percent of all doctorates in psychology and the social sciences.

In contrast, women earned only 35.1 percent of the doctorates in the physical sciences. In engineering, women earned 25.9 percent of the doctorates awarded in 2021. In mathematics and computer science, women earned just 26.1 of all doctorates awarded in 2021. The good news is that the percentage of all doctorates in the physical sciences, engineering, and math and computer science earned by women is up in each broad discipline since 2016.

Filed Under: Degree AttainmentsResearch/Study

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