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Racial disparities found in those gaining Bachelor degrees in the U.S.

African Americans are seeing growth in engineering and physical sciences but are not progressing at the same rate when compared to the general population.

A report from the American Institute of Physics (AIP) Statistical Research Center (SIC) examined the number of bachelor's degrees earned from 2005 and 2015 in the United States and separated out the numbers for African Americans from the rest of the students.

The data gathered was gathered by the National Center for Education Statistics from higher education institutions in the U.S.

The project found that while the number of degrees earned by African Americans has grown by 36 per cent in the physical sciences fields over a 10-year period, the growth was still less than for all students, which was 55 per cent during the same time.

In 2005, just under 6,000 African Americans earned bachelor's degrees in the physical sciences and engineering, whereas more than 7,000 degrees were earned in 2015.

In engineering, for example, the number of bachelor's degrees earned by African Americans increased by 19 per cent, less than half of the overall growth in the field of 44 per cent.

Image credit: Alliance for Excellent Education

Out of seven physical sciences fields, only two fields in engineering - civil engineering and materials engineering - showed growth in the number of African American graduates when compared to the rest of the students in those fields.

The other five disciplines showed slow or even negative growth.

While more and more members of the African-American community are gaining bachelor's degrees, the growth is not fast enough.

Racial disparities in the representation of students in gifted-and-talent programmes in the USA may be a factor contributing to the slow growth of African American individuals entering the higher education system.

Across the United States, 3 million to 5 million students are enrolled in gifted programmes according to the National Association for Gifted Children. The positive impacts of a student participating in a gifted programme include academic performance, improvements in student motivation and engagement, and less overall stress.

All these positive effects contribute to a greater likelihood of successfully gaining a spot at university and earning a bachelor's degree. With less African Americans enrolled in these programmes, we can see how their opportunities and gateways into higher education are effectively narrowed and disproportionate to the rest of the general population.


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