We don’t know how many math professors come from excluded racial/ethnic groups. This is a problem for everyone in this country.

If any readers do in fact know of recent, detailed statistics on faculty in the mathematical sciences who come from excluded racial/ethnic groups, please contact us at qside@qsideinstitute.org to let us know. Thus far, no one has been able to provide such information to us.

If you are not in the mathematical sciences, and even more broadly, if you are not in academia, questions about diversity in the field might seem like inside-baseball-type stuff. They are not. Diversity in mathematics matters for everyone in this country. And even more specifically, diversity of faculty in the mathematical sciences matters. To understand why, let’s put the following five facts together.

Fact #1: The U.S. has a STEM Labor shortage

Fact #2: The STEM Labor shortage is bad for our country

Economic projections point to a need for approximately 1 million more STEM professionals than the U.S. will produce at the current rate over the next decade if the country is to retain its historical preeminence in science and technology. Retaining more students in STEM majors is the lowest­ cost, fastest policy option to providing the STEM professionals that the nation needs for economic and societal well­being.

Fact #3: groups of People Excluded on the basis of Race/Ethicity (PEER) could play a key role in addressing the STEM labor shortage, and hence, in our national well-being

A clear takeaway from the projected demographic profile of the nation is that the educational outcomes and STEM readiness of students of color will have direct implications on America’s economic growth, national security, and global prosperity. Accordingly, there is an urgent national need to develop strategies to substantially increase the postsecondary and STEM degree attainment rates of Hispanic, African American, American Indian, Alaska Native, and underrepresented Asian American students.

Fact #4: Mathematics plays a special role within STEM

Mathematical sciences work is becoming an increasingly integral and essential component of a growing array of areas of investigation in biology, medicine, social sciences, business, advanced design, climate, finance, advanced materials, and many more. This work involves the integration of mathematics, statistics, and computation in the broadest sense and the interplay of these areas with areas of potential application. All of these activities are crucial to economic growth, national competitiveness, and national security.

FACT #5: Diversifying the U.S. postsecondary mathematics faculty would bolster the mathematics training of systemically excluded individuals.

Putting it all together

We seem to have no idea how many faculty from excluded racial/ethnic groups there are in the mathematical sciences.

The American Mathematical Society keeps statistics on gender at every level of the academic mathematical sciences (the situation is dire, but that’s a story for another post) and they appear to keep statistics on participation of racial/ethnic groups at the doctoral degree level. You can find statistics on participation of racial/ethnic groups in all STEM fields and at all degree levels through the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics.

What seems to be missing is data on racial/ethnic groups within the mathematical sciences. It is possible that some of this data is captured in the work of UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute. It is hard to say because their publicly available report doesn’t contain this information by field, and because their full data appears to be proprietary. Finally, nobody in my own borad professional network has been able to provide relevant data.

I am surely not the first person to notice that we are missing these data, but I myself have only just become aware of the lacuna. This hole in our knowledge is a serious barrier to increasing representation in STEM, moving towards justice for excluded individuals and groups, and giving our country a brighter future.

Professor, data scientist, applied mathematician, social justice researcher and activist, nonprofit leader. See www.chadtopaz.com and www.qsideinstitute.org.