Monday, September 26, 2011

STEM education and equity

Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) workers are essential to American innovation and competitiveness in an increasingly dynamic and global economy. Recently the Department of Commerce released their third and final report on STEM jobs and education. In the report, they examine demographic disparities in STEM education and find that educational attainment may affect equality of opportunity in these important, high‐quality jobs.

This report follows an analysis of labor market outcomes and gender disparities among STEM workers. The report found that regardless of race and Hispanic origin, higher college graduation rates are associated with higher shares of workers with STEM jobs. However, non‐Hispanic Whites and Asians are much more likely than other minority groups to have a bachelor’s degree. The Department of Commerce states that by increasing the numbers of STEM workers among currently underrepresented groups through education can help to ensure America’s future as a global leader in technology and innovation.

Key findings in the report include:

  • Non-Hispanic Whites comprise the largest group of STEM workers, accounting for about seven out of 10 STEM workers, which aligns closely with their share of the overall workforce.
  • Non-Hispanic Asians are most likely (42 percent) to graduate college with a STEM degree, while the propensities of other groups are all fairly similar (17-22 percent).
  • Half of all non-Hispanic Asian workers with STEM degrees have STEM jobs, compared to 30 percent of Hispanics and non-Hispanic Black and American Indian or Alaska Native workers.
  • One in five STEM workers is foreign born, of which 63 percent come from Asia.
  • STEM workers in all demographic groups, including the foreign born, earn more than their non-STEM counterparts. Hispanics and non-Hispanic Blacks receive a significantly larger STEM premium than do non-Hispanic Whites.

The President’s 2012 budget proposes $206 million in STEM training programs. This includes funding for the U.S. Department of Education to develop teacher training in grades K-12 around STEM-related topics, as well as funding for the National Science Foundation to conduct research on effective teacher training in STEM fields.

For state policymakers – considering strategies to increase high school and college completion are critical to increasing the number of people entering into the STEM workforce. For results-based policy strategies for increasing high school completion click here, and visit our homepage to sign-up for e-mail updates for results based policy strategies for increasing high school completion- coming soon!