In last five years, little progress in increasing the fraction of American CS BS degree recipients who are African Americans

August 24, 2018 at 7:00 am 4 comments

Keith Bowman published a series of blog posts this summer on African American undergraduate degrees in engineering.  In July, he wrote one on computer science – linked here. It’s interesting, careful, and depressing. I’m quoting the conclusion below, but I highly recommend clicking on the link and seeing the whole report. What’s most interesting is the greater context — Bowman is comparing across different engineering programs, so he has a strong and data-driven sense of what’s average and what’s below average.

There has been little progress in increasing the fraction of American CS BS degree recipients who are African Americans. Progress will likely only take place through a concerted effort by industry, professional societies, academia and government to foster change, including stronger efforts in graduate degrees. CS undergraduate programs fare poorly compared to many other engineering disciplines in the context of gender diversity and slightly worse than engineering overall in the fraction of African Americans earning undergraduate degrees. Many of the largest CS programs in the US are strikingly behind the national averages for CS BS degrees earned by African Americans.


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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. BKM  |  August 24, 2018 at 10:26 am

    I am trying to understand this data a little more. Am I right that the statistics are all from schools that either have an engineering degree or are in the Taulbee survey (implying they are research oriented)? In that case, you may be missing important data. I am guessing my own institution is not in that data, despite the fact that the percentage of CS majors that are black at my school is about 16%, and if we include the cybersecurity degree, it goes to 18%. That is considerably higher than many of the schools you show here. I don’t have data on graduates, just enrolled majors, but I know we graduate a good number of black CS majors. But we don’t have a PhD in CS, and we don’t have an engineering program. I would not be surprised if many of the schools that black kids attend are similar to my school, so this may be missing an important chunk of data.

    • 2. Mark Guzdial  |  August 24, 2018 at 10:34 am

      It’s a good point. The author of this study wanted to compare to Engineering schools, so he was looking at CS departments in Engineering schools, and at CRA schools since the data was at-hand.

  • 3. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  August 24, 2018 at 11:37 am

    Another distorting factor: many of the biggest CS programs are in California public universities, but in California only 5.9% of the population is black (compared to 12.6% nationwide). So the under-representation in California is not as serious as it looks nationwide (2/3 what it should be, rather than 1/3).

  • 4. Computer Science and Diversity – f1tym1  |  August 29, 2018 at 1:31 am

    […] I saw a tweet quoting Mark Guzdial’s blog saying “In last five years, little progress in increasing the fraction of American CS BS degree recipients w….”  It is a problem I’ve given quite a bit of thought to, but in my thinking, diversity is a […]


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