Understanding STEM PhD Production: The Interplay Among Institutional Selectivity, Race/Ethnicity, and Field of Study


  • Dongbin Kim Michigan State University
  • Sehee Kim Michigan State University
  • Kyle Farris Michigan State University


Abstract: Focusing on census data of U.S. doctoral recipients during the last 10 years, we examined PhD production and undergraduate origins with a particular emphasis on institutional selectivity. Specifically, this study had three overarching goals: (1) examining STEM PhD production with an emphasis on the selectivity of doctoral programs; (2) examining the selectivity of undergraduate origins among STEM PhDs from highly selective doctoral programs; and (3) examining whether the patterns of STEM PhD production and undergraduate origins differ by race/ethnicity. This study found significantly different patterns in PhD production overall versus PhDs from top 10 doctoral programs and in the selectivity of undergraduate institutions that produce the number of PhDs overall versus PhDs from the top 10 doctoral programs. We further found that PhD production across varied selectivity of doctoral program and its association with the undergraduate origins differ significantly across different racial/ethnic groups. Implications for policy, programs, and future research are discussed.


2021-09-19 — Updated on 2021-09-19