Underrepresented Minorities in the U.S. Workplace

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Friday, May 21, 2010

The participation of underrepresented minorities (e.g., Hispanics, African Americans, and Native Americans) in the whole U.S. workforce increased from ~23% to ~25% between 2003 and 2009. This increase was driven by growth in Hispanic participation rates (12.6% to 14%). In comparison, the percentage of underrepresented minorities in environmental science and geoscience occupations varied between 4.7% and 8.1% between 2003-2008, and dropped to 2.2% in 2009. In general, Hispanic and African American participation in the geoscience workforce have remained comparable.

NSF’s data shows some disagreement with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data for the 2006 underrepresented minority participation in geoscience occupations (NSF: 3% Hispanic and 1.9% African American vs. BLS: 1.8% Hispanic and 2.9 African American) which may be due to nomenclature classification differences between the two datasets. Additionally, the small size of the underrepresented minority population working in environmental and geoscience occupations may cause high variability in the percentages.

Examination of NSF's 2006 data allows for the comparison of underrepresented minorities in geoscience occupations with other science and engineering (S and E) and non-S and E occupations. Hispanic participation averages between 4-5% for most categories, with the exception of computer sciences and mathematics (3.4%) and geosciences (3%). African American participation varies the most with the highest participation rate in non-S and E occupations (6.4%) and lowest in the geosciences (1.9%), and Native American representation approximates 1% for all occupational categories.

View an in-depth discussion of this information in the corresponding Geoscience Currents Discussion Webinar.