Latinos Aren't Interested in STEM Fields and That's a Problem for Everyone

ponsulak/Shutterstock.com

Asian Americans and whites are more drawn to science and engineering fields, but the labor pool is increasingly Latino.

While there has been some positive progress in improving interest and aptitude among students in science, technology, engineering and math careers, the number of available jobs in such fields continues to significantly outpace the number of available peoplel qualified for those jobs, according to a new analysis.

The new U.S. News/Raytheon STEM Index, released last month, found that STEM employment in the U.S. has increased by more than 30 percent, from 12.8 million jobs in 2000 to 16.8 million in 2013. And while the number of undergraduate and graduate STEM degrees granted increased during that time, the proportion of STEM in terms of total degrees granted has remained relatively flat, the study found.  

“Just using the government’s data, which is quite a conservative estimate, it’s clear that STEM is an important and growing part of the economy,” said Brian Kelly, editor and chief content officer of U.S. News & World Report. “Beyond that, we know that STEM skills may be required in as many as 50 percent of future jobs.”

The Index includes 93 sub-indices and divides thousands of data points into eight components: ACT math and science scores, Advanced Placement (AP) test scores in STEM subjects, college and graduate degrees granted, U.S. employment in STEM fields and math and science scores in high schools as well as on SATs and other educational assessment programs.

The research also suggests that there’s little evidence to show that government actions -- including President Obama’s 2009 Educate to Innovate initiative -- have had any significant impact. While certain areas, like the number of STEM degrees granted, STEM employment and the number of STEM-related AP tests have gone up since 2009, areas like SAT scores have remained flat while other key areas have declined, U.S. News and Raytheon found.

Another key issue is the lack of progress among female and minority students in STEM fields, Kelly said.  

“A big part of the problem is the continuing split that puts Asian-Americans and white males on the side of those who are driven to acquire STEM skills, and women, blacks and Latinos on the other side of the dividing line,” Kelly said. “The labor pool going forward will not be made up mainly of white males and Asian-Americans. The labor pool will be increasingly Latino, and that group is not advancing in STEM fields right now.” 

(Image via ponsulak/Shutterstock.com)

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