Population Research and Policy Review 16: 337–362, 1997.
1997 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Evidence for and against the ‘double penalty’ thesis in the science
and engineering ﬁelds
Department of Sociology, Queens College of CUNY, Flushing, New York, USA
Abstract. This study examines how race and gender affect the economic status of scientists and
engineers. Using data from the 1989 Survey of Natural and Social Scientists and Engineers,
the wage rates of minority females are compared with those of white males, white females,
and minority males for the native-born population and immigrants. The results reveal Asian
women’s parity with white men in some contexts. Economic discrimination holds up for black
and white women only. There is also evidence that institutional contexts affect men and women
with similar characteristics in different ways. The ﬁndings challenge the claim for universalism
but offer some support for the discipline-dependence hypothesis.
Key words: Earnings, Engineers, Racial minorities, Scientists, Women
Women have entered the American science and engineering labor markets in
growing numbers. Between 1980 and 1990, the proportion of women in the
science and engineering workforce increased by 27 percent, compared to 12
percent among men (National Science Foundation [NSF] 1994: 365). It is
estimated that one of every three scientists and one out of every 25 engineers
in the United States would be a woman by the year 2000 (NSF 1992: xiii).
More important, women are more likely than men to be members of a minority
group in science and engineering (NSF 1992: 12). These trends suggest that
well-educated minority women would no longer be overlooked in research
on career attainment.
Many scholars have found that being a female or a racial minority is a
disadvantagein the science and engineeringlabor markets (Long & Fox 1995;
Pearson & Fechter 1994; Zuckerman, Cole & Bruer 1991). Yet, relatively
little is known about the economic status of minority female scientists and
engineers in relation to their white male and female counterparts. Does being
a female and a racial minority affect one’s earning potential? What is the
cost (or beneﬁt) of being a minority woman in these traditionally male-
dominated professions? Do black and Asian females fare as well as their