Statistics and Facts about Students with Disabilities

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) graduate students with disabilities are a significantly under represented demographic.

While 13.4% of the US population between 18 and 44 years of age are thought to have a disability,[3] representation among STEM undergraduate and graduate students drop to 10% and 6%, respectively.[4] Ultimately, less than 2% of STEM doctorates are earned by students with disabilities. [5]

Hour Glass Stats

Figure 1


In chemistry and physics, only 28 doctorates were earned by students with disabilities in 2006.[4] (note: between 2009 and 2010 the reported number of earned doctorates by students with disabilities increased after questions about disabilities were revised.[6])

Since the passage of the ADA in 1991, there has not been a statistically significant increase in the percentage of STEM doctorate earned by persons with disabilities. (Figure 2, green) By way of comparison, STEM doctoral degrees earned by black or Hispanic STEM students have increased by more than 0.1 percentage points (Figure 2, black and blue).[7],[8],[9],[4],[10]


Stat Plot (PhD vs Time)

Figure 2

With these demographics as a backdrop, the Science and Engineering Leadership Initiative (SELI) is envisioned. Achieving proportional advancement of persons with disabilities to leadership positions in STEM fields – jobs requiring doctorate or professional degrees – to provide a concerted effort that exposes the systemic causes of the

An increased focus on students with disabilities is needed to help achieve proportionate equity in bachelor and doctoral degrees earned by students with disabilities in STEM.

See the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the most recent data.