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Native American and Indigenous Representation in STEM - Where are we now?

Posted by EiE Team on Tuesday, November 24, 2020

As part of our celebration of Latinx Heritage month, we examined representation of Latin American students in STEM education and career fields. Looking at retention and advancement rates for Indigenous and Hispanic specialists in various fields and degree paths, we’ve seen some areas for improvement and some exciting strides toward equity in science, technology engineering and math.

On Access and Representation: 

In the United States, roughly 18% of the population is Hispanic, as is nearly 23% of all student populations. 

As of the latest available Census data, Latin American students make up:

-25.7% of all kindergartners

-25% of all elementary age students

-23.7% of all high school students

-19.1% of college students, which breaks down even further, revealing interesting data about advanced education trends: 

-Hispanic students make up 12% of all Associates Degrees

-8% of all Bachelor’s degrees

-4% of Master’s degrees

-3% of Doctoral degrees

November is Native American Heritage Month! Native American and Indigenous people make up approximately 1.5% of the population and about the same percentage in schools, but are often excluded in educational research. This prevents essential resources outreach programs from reaching this important population. 

-Only 17% of Native American students continue their education after high school compared to 60% of the U.S. population, the lowest graduation rate among any minority group.  

-Only 47 percent of Native American and Indigenous students attended public high schools where the full range of mathematics and science courses were offered (Sandia National Laboratories, 2011- 2012). 

-Only 7 of 100 Native American kindergarten students will earn a bachelor’s degree.


Why it Matters: 

-Students from Native American, Black, and Latino communities, from lower income backgrounds and from rural areas disproportionately struggle with lack of access to Computer Science instruction and resources. (Education Commission, 2016)

-23% of first-time, full-time Native American students attending four-year institutions beginning in 2008 graduated within four years, compared to nearly 44% for white students. (Postsecondary National Policy Institute, 2019) 

-More than half of Native American Students currently lack access to the math and science high school classes they’d need to fill jobs in a STEM field, according to the U.S. Department of Education

-Undergraduate and postgraduate enrollment for Indigenous students has decreased over the last three years, compared to other groups. (Postsecondary National Policy Institute, 2019) 

-Hispanics comprise 16% of the U.S. workforce but only 7% of all STEM workers (Pew Social Trends, 2018) 

-About 37% of Latino STEM students switch majors as undergraduates, compared with 29 percent of white STEM students. (Washington Post, 2019)

-Overall, Hispanic high school students are less confident in their STEM abilities (Student Research Foundation, 2019)

The Bright Side: 

-Over the past 25 years the STEM workforce has become more racially and ethnically diverse, echoing increasing diversity in the workforce during that period. In 1990, only 4% of STEM workers were Hispanic. (Pew Social Trends, 2018) 

-STEM jobs provide greater pay equity, with the earnings disparity between non-white and white STEM workers (85%) narrower than among non-STEM workers (67%), and narrowing each year. (Pew Social Trends, 2018)

-Groups like SACNAS, dedicated to the advancement of Native American and Chicano scholars in STEM, are growing in popularity around the country! 


We’d love to hear from you about how you engage with issues of representation and professional retention in your district and in your classroom, as well as any questions you have about these topics. And, keep your eye out for an upcoming post of professional development resources to help encourage diversity in STEM! 

Written by EiE Team

Topics: Engineering for All, Create a Generation of Problem Solvers

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