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Jonathan Golding, Ph.D. and Anne Lippert, PhD

The Status Of Minorities In Psychology-Related Careers

Examining data shows the status of minorities in Psychology-related careers.

COD Newsroom/Flickr
Source: COD Newsroom/Flickr

When I (Jonathan) decided to look at the status of minorities in Psychology-related careers, I thought that a quick look at the Internet would lead to a vast number of sites devoted to this topic. In addition, I expected there to be a ton of data revealing clear increasing trends for minority inclusion in Psychology-related careers. Surprisingly, both of my expectations were not met. This meant a relatively long investigation into understanding some (but clearly not all) aspects of minority involvement in Psychology-related careers.

To begin, I feel it is important to understand that the 2000 US census found the following population demographics: 75% White, 12% African American and 12.5% Hispanic. In 2010 the US census found that 72% of the population was White, 13% African Americans and 16% Hispanic. The population increases for the largest minority groups are reflected in the National Science Foundation data for the percentage of undergraduate Psychology degrees awarded in the US (US and other nationalities):

2000 2011

Whites 71% 62%

African Americans 10% 12%

Hispanics 18% 12%

With regard to PhDs in Psychology, the data gets interesting. The percentage of African Americans and Hispanics show that the numbers of students earning a PhD from these two minority groups has not shown increases. It seems pretty clear that African Americans and Hispanics who earn an undergraduate degree in Psychology do not continue as Psychology graduate students working toward a PhD. Here are the NSF percentages for U.S. citizens (note that 2014 data was available):

2000 2014

Whites 72% 62%

African Americans 5% 5%

Hispanics 5% 6%

One might wonder if the overall percentage might be masking some increasing trends for minorities in various sub-fields within Psychology. There is only some evidence for this when looking at some of the larger sub-areas of Psychology. In fact, the data below shows that there have been more decreases than increases over a 14-year span for African Americans. As for Hispanics, the trends are showing more increases over time in these sub-areas.

Whites African Americans Hispanics

Clinical 2000 75% 5% 6%

2014 60% 4% 8%

Cognitive 2000 7% 0 3%

2014 65% 1% 5%

Developmental 2000 75% 6% 13%

2014 63% 2% 9%

Social 2000 75% 5% 1%

2014 66% 3% 8%

I/O 2000 73% 5% 7%

2014 55% 7% 7%

It should be noted, however, that an examination of the complete list of sub-fields showed that every area of Psychology had at least one African-American or Hispanic PhD recipient in 2014; the same was not true in 2000.

Although not an exhaustive examination, we looked at other Psychology-related career areas to determine if there were increasing trends for minorities. There was no such trend for Physical Therapy:

Whites African Americans Hispanics

2004-5 79% 5% 5%

2014-15 81% 3% 5%

In addition, the trends for first-year medical school are not encouraging:

Whites African Americans Hispanics

2003 68% 7% 7%

2010 65% 7% 8%

There is, however, at least one career area showing an overall (the data was not broken down further) increasing trend for minorities-the law. As reported by the American Bar Association, first-year law school enrollment was as follows:

Non-Minority Minority

2013-14 73% 27%

2000-01 79% 21%

1990-91 86% 14%

Given the above data for certain career paths and minorities, it must be asked why there have not been more increases for minorities across all Psychology-related careers. As a way to stimulate discussion, we would like to raise three possibilities. First, the present situation may be the result of a lack of role models for minorities. These role models may be actual people (e.g., a parent who has their PhD in Psychology, a doctor one sees in a clinic), but may even include those in the media. Second, at least with regard to the limited increases in Psychology PhD’s, minorities may choose careers that are relatively more lucrative than going to graduate school in Psychology. Such careers may include law or business. One final possible reason for the lack of increases in minority representation in certain fields is that members of minority groups continue to have disadvantages to overcome.

Foundry/Pixabay
Source: Foundry/Pixabay

Regardless of the reason for the lack of increases for minorities in Psychology-related careers, we hope that our post leads to (a) a better understanding of the data concerning the presence of African Americans and Hispanics in certain careers and (b) an increase in discussions (and hopefully initiatives) to help guide more minorities to career opportunities related to Psychology.

Please note that the comments of Dr. Golding and the others who post on this blog express their own opinion and not that of the University of Kentucky.

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About the Author

Jonathan Golding, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky. Anne Lippert, Ph.D., is a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Kentucky.