STEM PhDs with disabilities earned $10,580 less per year than their counterparts without disabilities. In academia, they earn U.S. $14,360 less and are underrepresented among academic leadership and in tenured roles.
New research from the Johns Hopkins Disability Health Research Center suggests that PhD graduates in science, technology, engineering and medicine (STEM) in the U.S. who became disabled before age 25 earn $14,360 less per year in academia than those without disabilities. They are also underrepresented at higher faculty levels (such as deans and presidents) and in tenured positions.
“We’re identifying the barriers to inclusion so we can dismantle them,” says Bonnielin Swenor, PhD, MPH, Endowed Professor of Disability Health and Justice and founder of the Johns Hopkins Disability Health Research Center. “Combating the disparities will take structural transformation.”
Previous research has revealed pay disparities and unequal representation in STEM for women and underrepresented racial minorities in the U.S.; research has also identified that scientists and engineers with disabilities (regardless of the age of disability onset) are more likely to be unemployed than the overall U.S. labour force. However, data on disparities for STEM doctoral recipients with disabilities have been lacking.
Dr. Swenor and colleagues examined evidence for differences in salary and representation of STEM PhD graduates with disabilities before 25 years of age and those with disabilities at 25 years of age or later, compared to doctorate recipients without disabilities. The authors used national data on nearly 1.15 million U.S. research doctorate recipients who received degrees between 1973 and 2017. Of their sample, 704,013 individuals were still working in STEM (including 36,807 individuals who reported disabilities experienced in later life and 20,544 people who reported disabilities from early in life). Within this subset, they matched individuals by socioeconomic background, job and degree-related characteristics.
Across all employment sectors, STEM PhD graduates with disabilities earned $10,580 less per year than their counterparts without disabilities — and in academia, they earn US $14,360 less. The authors also found those with disabilities were underrepresented at higher faculty levels (such as deans and presidents) and in tenured positions. The authors call for structural transformations to combat these disparities.
“The Disability Health Research Center aims to shift the paradigm from ‘living with a disability’ to ‘thriving with a disability’ and uses data-driven approaches to drive change in many sectors, including in STEM,” says Dr. Swenor.
Today more than 27 percent of American adults have disabilities, and yet people with disabilities still face many barriers to health, equity, and inclusion.
“STEM Doctorate recipients with disabilities experienced early in life earn lower salaries and are underrepresented among higher academic positions,” is now published in the Nature Human Behaviour. The authors include Bonnielin Swenor, Franz Castro (JHSON), Elizabeth Stuart (JHSPH), Jennifer Deal (JHSPH; JHSOM), and Varshini Varadaraj (JHSON). The study was funded by The National Science Foundation.
About the Johns Hopkins Disability Health Research Center
The Johns Hopkins Disability Health Research Center (DHRC) aims to shift the paradigm from ‘living with a disability’ to ‘thriving with a disability’ through research, education, and policy. By using data-driven approaches, The DHRC is addressing the inequities impacting people with disabilities across sectors, including healthcare, food access, housing, transportation, employment, and education. Housed within the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, the DHRC includes diverse experts and trainees from across Johns Hopkins University and partners with disability advocacy organizations, nonprofit and professional organizations, and national, state, and local policymakers. Visit disabilityhealth.jhu.edu to learn more.
The Institute for Policy Solutions at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing is a place where research, evidence, innovation and thought leadership unite to shape policies for a healthy future. Through evidence-based, actionable nurse-led solutions, the Institute will move policy and practice away from sick care toward preventive and whole-person care. Trusted by the public and decision-makers, nurses will serve as strategic experts and change agents in redesigning the U.S. health care system. For more information, please visit instituteforpolicysolutions.org.
Sydnee Logan, MA