African-American and Hispanic students typically take more time to earn a doctoral degree in science, technology, engineering, and math than nonminorities, delaying the time these groups enter the workforce and potentially costing them future earnings, a new study has found.
Overall, the time students take to earn a doctoral degree in STEM fields has been gradually shrinking, except during the early 1990s when the average completion time increased from 6.8 years to 7.3 years. By 2009, the average completion time had declined to 6.3 years, according to a recent study by the American Institutes for Research (pdf).
(Related Next America story: STEM Gap Widens for Minorities.)
A first in a series, the study examined data from the National Science Foundation's Survey on Earned Doctorates between 1990 and 2009. It included only students who are U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents.
Researchers found that it takes blacks longer than any racial group to finish their doctoral degree (6.8 years), followed by Latinos (6.7 years). The trends are similar when looking at different fields of study, including agricultural, biological and biomedical, computer and information, engineering, math, and physical sciences. On average, for instance, blacks spent 10.8 years and Latinos 8.4 years to complete a computer-science doctorate, compared with 7.4 years for nonminorities.