Disparity Among First- and Second-Generation Immigrants in STEM Degrees

Hispanic first-and-second generation immigrants lag behind in STEM degrees, compared to their Asian immigrant counterparts. AP Photo/LM Otero (National Journal)

Latino and Asian immigrants and their U.S.-born offspring are studying in areas deemed critical — science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — at different rates.

A National Center for Education Statistics report, "New Americans in Postsecondary Education: A Profile of Immigrant and Second-Generation American Undergraduates," shows the differences are stark.

About 25 percent of first- and second-generation Asian-Americans obtained degrees in the STEM fields, compared with 14 percent of their Latino counterparts, the report states.

These two major groups also differed from one another on key socioeconomic characteristics, including age, low-income status, parents' education levels, and whether English was the primary language spoken at home, according to the study.

The report excluded foreign students, which generally go into the STEM fields at higher levels.

While people earning STEM degrees has been on the uptick in the past two decades, a more recent Census report shows that most of the degrees in computer, math, statistics, and engineering disciplines are still going to foreign-born residents, primarily to those from China and India.

Below are some interesting facts (many referring to the 2007-2008 academic year), on two demographics within the coalition of ascendants.

23%: The share of all undergraduates with at least one parent who is an immigrant.

25%: The percentage of Asian immigrants and their American-born offspring majoring in STEM fields.

14%: The percentage of Latino immigrants and those born here majoring in STEM fields.

25%: The share of first- and second-generation Latinos majoring in humanities, social sciences, and general studies.

21%: The percentage of first- and second-generation Asians majoring in humanities, social sciences, and general studies.

38%: The percentage of Latinos with at least one immigrant parent who are low-income, contrasted with 32% of Asian-Americans.

54%: The percentage of second-generation Latinos whose parents are without a college education, compared to 28% of their Asian counterparts.

18%: The percentage of Latino immigrants who say English is the primary language spoken at home, compared to 26% of Asian immigrants.

21.5%: The share of second-generation Latino undergrads under age 30 who took calculus in high school. (Those who complete advanced courses in high school are more likely to earn a bachelor's degree, the study says.)

46%: The share of second-generation Asian-Americans who took calculus in high school.

52%: The percentage of Latino immigrants who ever took at least one remedial college course.

40%: The percentage of Asian immigrants who ever enrolled in at least one remedial college course.

Want to dig deeper? Check out some of our stories: