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US Institutions Award Most Doctorates Ever, Mostly to Women

US institutions awarded 54,070 research doctorate degrees in 2014, the highest total ever recorded in the 58-year history of the Survey of Earned Doctorates, said an annual census of research degree recipients.

The report, published by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) at the National Science Foundation (NSF), supplies data and analysis for a vital U.S. economic interest: the American system of doctoral education.

The U.S. doctoral education system is widely considered to be among the world’s best, attracting many top foreign students. Other nations, however, recognize the economic contributions of doctoral recipients, and are investing heavily in education. Without continued investment and improvement, the U.S. doctoral education system’s preeminence is not guaranteed.

By presenting an annual count of U.S. doctoral recipients, NCSES provides a measurement of the human resources devoted to science, engineering, research and scholarship.

NCSES identified major trends in 2014 as:

The number of science and engineering (S&E) degrees awarded continued a 40-year trend of outpacing non-S&E degrees. The number of non-S&E degrees awarded declined 2 percent from the previous year. In 1974, S&E degrees were 58 percent of the total awarded. In 2014, they were 75 percent.

The number of S&E doctorates awarded to temporary visa holders grew to 13,739 in 2014, up 2 percent compared to the previous year and up 45 percent since 2004.

The number of S&E doctorates awarded to U.S. citizens and permanent residents in 2014 showed a comparable growth rate — up 2 percent from the previous year and 42 percent since 2004.

In 2014, 10 countries accounted for 70 percent of the doctorates awarded to temporary visa holders. The top three, China, India and South Korea, accounted for more than half.

Women earned 46 percent of all doctorates in 2014, continuing a trend of women becoming increasingly prevalent in the annual total of recipients. The growth of women receiving S&E doctorates over the past two decades has significantly exceeded that of men. From 1994 to 2014, the number of women receiving S&E doctorates nearly doubled; the number for men increased by 26 percent.

The proportion of doctorates awarded to African Americans has risen from 4.1 percent to 6.4 percent between 1994 and 2014. Over the same period, the rate for Hispanics or Latinos rose by 3.3 percent to 6.5 percent.

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