Addressing STEM Disparities for the Future

Although the field of technology continues to grow, there is a shortage of qualified technology professionals.  In the publication Stem Urgency, researchers Joseph S. Miller and Dr. John H. Horrigan recommend an improvement in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs in order to address this shortage and to address the disparity in minority representation in these fields, which should be a national priority.


Sources: Economics and Statistics Administration, Good Jobs Now and for the Future, 1 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Commerce, 2011); Bureau of Labor Statistics, Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) occupations: a visual essay (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Labor, 2011).


  • Only 25% of Science and Engineering degree holders and 28% of people working in Science and Engineering careers are non-white
  • Raw SAT overall scores for Black and Hispanic students are on average 200 to 300 points lower than white students
  • In 21 of the 25 states with the largest Black populations, annual spending per pupil is less than Massachusetts, which is the state with the highest education quality in the United States

Patrice Garnette, Joint Center Graduate Scholar, The George Washington University Law School


New study sheds light on quality of life of African Americans


A recent research project, carried out by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in conjunction with Ebony magazine, has shed some light on the quality of life for African Americans. The survey included 1,005 African Americans from across the country and probed a myriad of issues including access to healthcare, home ownership, income inequalities, and education.

A vast majority (80%) of respondents reported being satisfied with their overall daily life. Ratings of satisfaction varied by geographical location, with satisfaction levels highest in the west (90% of participants were very satisfied) and lowest in the east (32% of participants were very satisfied). When probed about the state of their finances within the past five years, there were mixed responses from participants. About half (47%) reported that their finances had gotten “somewhat better” while 22% said it had gotten “somewhat worse”

In regards to home ownership, 49% of participants were renters at their current residence and 48% owned the homes that they were currently residing. Home ownership varied across age groups with older respondents reporting owning homes at higher rates compared to younger respondents.  The topic of income inequality was of major concern to most participants. Over half (58%) expressed that they were “very concerned” about the issue of income inequality and this concern varied by geographical location, with participants in the Northeast showing the most concern (75% reported being “very concerned”).

Interestingly, 79% of respondents reported having some form of health care coverage. This number is significant due to the issues surrounding health disparities and limited access to healthcare in the African American community. There were differences in access to healthcare across groups, with higher income and educated individuals reporting more recent routine visits to the hospital.


Adedotun Ogunbajo, Joint Center Graduate Scholar, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health 

PLUS Problems for HBCUs

Dianne Hayes’ article “Obama Administration Plans Changes to Parent PLUS Loans” explains that Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have seen a 19% drop in funding due to student loan denials as a result of the U.S. Department of Education’s change in the eligibility requirements for Parent PLUS loans.  Many parents who previously used the PLUS loans were denied and could not cover the cost of their children attending college according to Allie Bidwell’s US News and World Report article.  Bidwell explains that proponents of the change indicate that new eligibility requirements address the issue of families borrowing more than they can afford to repay because previously there was no cap in the amount of the PLUS loans that could be taken out.  The same article notes that opponents of the change say that many students from low-income families will no longer be able to afford the cost of college.

Hayes explains that civic organizations including the Congressional Black Caucus, NAFEO, UNCF, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, as well as parents and students put pressure on the U.S. Department of Education to address the drastic change in PLUS loan eligibility.  In response, the U.S. Department now qualifies families with recent but small-scale debt for PLUS loans by appeal.

The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) says more changes need to be made.  The UNCF’s report “An Urgent Crisis Facing Students at the Nation’s HBCUs” suggests the U. S. Department of Education take following remedial steps:

  • Immediately restore old eligibility criteria & grandfather in students who previously received Parent PLUS loans
  • In the short term, provide alternative means by which families can pay for college & meet with HBCU presidents to devise a better plan
  • In the long term: “implement statutory changes to improve the PLUS Loan program”

Patrice Garnette, Joint Center Graduate Scholar, The George Washington University Law School

A Path for All: Closing the Racial Achievement Gap

Many Americans identify education as a path toward success.  The racial achievement gap in American schools, however, stands in the way of a significant number of minority children’s realization of a successful future.  The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT Data Book extrapolates a change in the racial demographics of children over the next 15 years – as the percentages of minority groups increase, the foundation foresees the number of white children decreasing.  Therefore, addressing the racial achievement gap will become increasingly more necessary as time progresses.

For that reason, The Annie E. Casey Foundation compiles the Race for Results Index, which collects a range of data for various groups of people of color.  The results from the Index shows some of the barriers facing minority children are under-resourced and unsafe schools, as well as poverty-stricken and violent communities.

The PBS documentary “180 Days” further demonstrates the impact of a student’s circumstances on the student’s achievement. Through a series of episodes following students and families of an inner-city high school, the documentary examines the specific struggles that arise when school and community resources are few.

Patrice Garnette, Joint Center Graduate Scholar, The George Washington University Law School

Joan Ganz Cooney Center – Less Than Half of Kids’ Screen Time is Educational: Stats and Studies, 1/27/2014

study from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center finds that children ages 2 to 10 spend less than half of their electronic screen-time interacting with educational material. The study also finds that time spent on educational activities decreases as the amount of time a child spends on an electronic screen increases, which also correlates with an increase in a child’s age. Two- to 4-year-olds spent a little over two hours a day using a screen, averaging an hour and 16 minutes on educational activities, while 8- to 10-year-olds spent more than two and a half hours each day using a screen, with only 42 minutes considered educational.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler declared the Commission’s commitment to strengthening E-Rate to provide schools and libraries with better Internet connections.

NPD Group is backing away from a recent study in which it claimed subscription video services like Netflix may be leading to a decline in premium cable subscriptions. This action came after Showtime, HBO and Starz produced data from SNL Kagan demonstrating a rise in subscribersNPD Group maintains that its study does indicate that the overall number of premium TV subscribers did fall, but that individual customers are becoming more faithful to their cable service by subscribing to more channels or adding channels over time.

Another NPD Group publication, the Connected Home Reportfinds smartphone penetration growing in the United States from 52 percent in Q4 2012 to six-in-ten mobile phone users in Q4 2013. Apple and Samsung continue to dominate the smartphone market, increasing from 35 and 22 percent of users to 42 and 26 percent of users, respectively.

The 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer shows that trust in the media has fallen in nearly 80 percent of countries surveyed since the last Trust Barometer study in 2013. Media trust in the United States fell from 51 to 42 percent, below the global average of 52 percent. Globally, online search engines and traditional media are considered more trustworthy than hybrid media, social media and owned media.

new survey from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners shows that wireless customers have warmed to early upgrades and financing plans for unsubsidized phones. From July to December 2013, about 31 percent of eligible customers from the four major carriers chose a financing plan to purchase their phone.

Nearly 3000 television stations were sold in 2013, a 205 percent increase from 2012according to BIA/Kelsey.

Seven new specialty web domains are set for release this week, including .bike, .guru and .clothing.

Pew: Public Libraries Still Important to Americans – MTI Stats and Studies, 12/16/2013

Americans still value public libraries in their communities according to a new report from the Pew Research Center. Ninety percent of those surveyed said that the closure of their local library would have an impact on their community. While not considered the most important among library services, 58 percent of those surveyed found computer and Internet services at their local library to be “very” or “somewhat” important to their families, including 56 percent of Internet users without home access, who find the services “very important.”

Millennials do read newspapers, but not always traditional print, according to the Newspaper Association of America. Of young adults between the ages of 18 and 34, 56 percent read newspaper media content in print or online. Seventy-one percent of millennials who are online access digital newspaper content over an average month, while 60 percent of millennials consuming newspaper content in print or online consider their paper to be trustworthy.

Time-shifted video and video-on-demand continues to grow in popularity. Consumer research from the Leichtman Research Group found that 47 percent of U.S. households have at least one DVR, up from 40 percent in 2010 and 23 percent in 2007. Sixty-one percent of cable subscribers have used video on demand, compared to 43 percent in 2008 and 10 percent in 2004. And Netflix subscribers watch an average of 19.6 TV shows each month, up from 12.7 in 2012 and 9.9 in 2011.

Hour of Code, an initiative encouraging children to take computer programming tutorials during Computer Science Education Week, is expected to reach 15 million kids with coding courses. As per this report from AllThingsD, 73 percent of Hour of Code students were from the United States and 51 percent were female.

The Center for Data Innovation’s The Internet of Things report identifies a variety of Internet-connected devices and the solutions they can provide to dilemmas in society. Notable examples include wireless bridge sensors to detect structural changes, smart pill bottles that send phone calls or text messages if a dose is missed and the Air Quality Egg, which senses the air in a small location, like a home, and aggregates the data for personal use.

ZenithOptimedia and GroupM predict that the global ad market will become more competitive as Internet-based ads go head-to-head with television ads. While TV will still deliver growth in ad spending – from 40.2 percent in 2013 to a projected 39.9 percent in 2016 – the rise in digital media and online video will boost Internet ad share from 20.6 percent in 2013 to 26.6 percent in 2016. Mobile advertising, in particular, is projected to grow by an average of 50 percent a year between 2013 and 2016.

Apple and Samsung are dominating United States smartphone sales according to Canaccord Genuity. The iPhone 5S, Samsung Galaxy S4 and iPhone 5C have been the top three best-selling smartphones at all four major wireless carriers since September 2013.

PISA: U.S. Students Score Low in Math, Science – Stats and Studies, 12/9/2013

American 15-year-olds continue to score below their international peers in math, reading and science according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The results of their 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) looked at 510,000 students in 34 developed countries. Among those countries, the United States ranked 26th in math, 21st in science and 17th in reading, showing little change from previous PISA tests. Notably, Shanghai ranked first in math – an estimated three grade levels above average.

The International News Safety Institute and the International Women’s Media Foundation released a report that found 64% of female journalists experience “intimidation, threats or abuse” at work.

Mark Zuckerberg’s Startup: Education and the Gates Foundation will give a $9 million grant to San Francisco-based nonprofit EducationSuperHighway to improve Internet connectivity in schools by providing technical expertise and using competition to drive down the cost of broadband.

The Federal Communications Commission announced that over $255 million from the Connect America Fund will be used to provide broadband access to 400,000 homes and businesses in rural areas of 41 states.

With the launch of providing a backdrop, Freedman Consulting, in a report commissioned by the MacArthur and Ford Foundations, released a set of policy recommendations for improving the caliber of tech expertise available to government and non-profit organizations. The report promotes tactics for improving the pipeline of workers with the appropriate skill sets, reducing barriers to retention and recruitment and other areas of improvement.

Netflix is gaining on cable in its popularity among young adults ages 18-36, according to Harris Interactive. While 46% of these consumers chose cable, 43% are Netflix subscribers. Nielsen’s Q3 cross-platform report also shows a slight decrease in live television viewing compared to Q3 2012, while time-shifted viewing, including DVR and video-on-demand, is up nearly 15 percent. However, traditional television still reigns supreme, occupying nearly 44 percent of overall video media viewing in the U.S.

Research firm IDC reports China surpassed Japan to become the world’s second largest IT company after the U.S. IT market, which is three times the size of China’s. “China’s overall IT spending is projected to hit $204 billion in 2014, versus $686 billion in the U.S., said Gens. U.S. IT spending grew 4.7 percent in 2013, and is forecast to rise by 3.8 percent next year. China’s IT spending will increase by $25 billion in 2014, the same dollar increase as in the U.S.”, infoWorld noted.

Adobe Systems, which tracks activity on more than 2,000 retail websites, reported a record year for so-called “Cyber Monday”, the Monday after Thanksgiving during which holiday shoppers take advantage of online sales. According to Adobe, Cyber Monday sales were up by 16% compared to last year, to $2.29 billion. In a pair of separate reports, Branding Brands data showed that visits to 46 mobile-optimized sites for major retailers saw a 69 percent increase in visits over Thanksgiving 2012, and a 258 percent increase in sales, as well as a 75.65 percent increase in visits and a 186.54 percent increase in sales over Black Friday 2012.

comScore reports that Apple remained the top U.S. smartphone manufacturer in October, with a 41% share of the market. However, Android still remained the top operating system, with a 52% share of the market. Apple’s iOS operating system came in second with a 41% share.

comScore and J.P. Morgan report that Twitter is the leading social media platform among young users ages 18-34.  The widest gap was among 18-24 year olds, with Twitter commanding an 18.2% share in that demographic, compared to 14.1% for second-place Facebook.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee announced that they will be re-writing the Communications Act, created in 1934 and last updated in 1996.

The U.S. Department of Justice has approved a deal that will allow Microsoft to acquire Nokia’s mobile devices and services business.

Professors at Davidson College are developing online Advanced Placement course lessons for high school students.

Media and Technology Stats and Studies – November 18, 2013

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released its 2013 Math and Reading Assessments. Hispanic students made a two point gain in both fourth and eighth grade math as compared to 2011 results. Black students showed no significant improvement in math at either the fourth or eighth grade level. In reading, neither blacks nor Hispanics made significant gains at the fourth grade level. However, at the eighth grade level, Hispanics saw a three point gain and black students saw a two point gain compared to 2011. Asian/Pacific Islanders as a whole saw the most gains with a four point increase in eighth grade math and a five point increase for eighth grade reading students. White students scored one point higher each in math and reading at the fourth grade level and two points higher in math at the eighth grade level compared to 2011.

The Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC) released a study linking the use of PBS Kids platforms in the classroom to improved mathematics performance among preschoolers ages four and five from economically disadvantaged communities. “Children who used the same technology without the integrated math materials did not experience the same learning gains compared to the control.” The study also found the PBS Kids platforms improved teachers’ comfort and confidence levels in teaching mathematics and using technology in the classroom. The study was commissioned by the CPB-PBS Ready to Learn Initiative. On a related note, NBC Universal took full ownership control of children’s television channel Sprout this week. PBS had held a 40 percent share of the network.

A Harris Interactive survey showed that while nearly a third (64 percent) of over 2,000 respondents felt “individuals” were responsible for safeguarding their privacy online, less than half (49 percent) reported actually reading recent privacy policy revisions for at least some of the social networks they subscribe to. The report also found one in five have never changed their social media privacy settings, and nearly a third (28 percent) have had their account hacked at some point.

forthcoming study by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, to be published in the December issue of Pediatrics, confirms the level of gun violence in top films rated PG-13 has risen dramatically and now exceeds that of the most popular films rated R. 

Half of America’s “downstream” traffic delivered over “fixed” broadband networks during peak hours is comprised of YouTube and Netflix traffic, according to a new Sandvine report. Netflix and YouTube accounted for 31.62% and 18.69% of downstream traffic, respectively. On Tuesday, research firm MoffetNathanson released a report estimating a loss of 113,000 pay TV subscriptions in the third quarter. Separately, Entropy Economics released a report analyzing competition in the Internet ecosystem.

NBC’s The Voice broke records Tuesday night by becoming the most tweeted about TV show in history. According to Nielsen results, 2.5 million distinct Twitter accounts viewed one or more of 595,000 Voice-related Tweets throughout the hour-long program. The traffic was generated by giving viewers the chance to “save” the bottom three artists on the show from elimination by tweeting the name of the contestant they wanted to continue with the hashtag #VoiceSave.

Media and Technology Institute Stats and Studies – November 11, 2013

The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies’ Media and Technology Institute released a report entitled Broadband and Jobs: African Americans Rely on Mobile Access and Social Networking in Job Search, showing African Americans rely disproportionately on the Internet, as opposed to personal relationships, to find jobs. Among the report’s findings, 50% of African American Internet users said the Internet was very important to them in successfully finding a job, significantly higher than the 36% average for the entire sample. Further, 46% of African American Internet users used the Internet at some point when they were looking for a job, compared to 41% for all respondents. Thirty-six percent of African Americans said they applied for a job online the last time they were in the job market, compared with 26% for all respondents. Social networking sites were very important to African Americans as well, with 31% saying they are very important to job search, which is seven percentage points greater than the entire sample (24%).

The Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity released a report entitled Fast Food FACTS 2013 which focuses on fast food advertising targeting children and teens. Among the report’s findings, “children ages 6 to 11 saw 10% fewer TV ads for fast food, but children and teens continued to see three to five fast food ads on TV every day.” Further, only one quarter of fast food ads were for healthier kids’ meals. Nevertheless, only 1% of kids’ meals served at the top fast foods restaurants meet experts’ nutritional standardsSpanish language fast food advertising increased by 16%, and “fast food marketing via social media and mobile devices – media that are popular with teens – grew exponentially. released its third quarter tech employment snapshot showing 3.9% unemployment in the technology sector compared to 7.3% unemployment overall. The unemployment rate in September was 12.9% for blacks and 9% for Hispanics. According to the National Science Foundation (NSF), Asian women have the highest unemployment rate (7.4%) among all racial and ethnic groups within the technology sector. The NSF has also found that underrepresented minorities including African Americans, Latinos and American Indians are unemployed within the technology sector at a rate of 6.7% for men and 6.6% for women.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland released a study of federal longitudinal data since 1997 showing a high correlation between the level of math students completed in high school and their high school graduation, college attendance and unemployment rates. High level math (Algebra II or above) completion correlated more strongly with high school graduation rates than parental educational backgrounds, according to the report. Students who completed math above Algebra II attended college at a rate more than 20 points higher (over 90%) than those completing only Algebra II. High school graduates with Geometry or Algebra II were also more than 10 percentage points less likely to be unemployed than those with Pre-Algebra or Algebra I.

The U.S. is losing its advantage in spying and cybersecurity, according to a new report by the National Commission for the Review of the Research and Development Programs of the United States Intelligence Community, a congressional panel tasked with evaluating the nation’s cyber-defense capabilities.

The Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) released a report recommending a shift, in researching the digital divide, away from access and more toward “the willingness and ability of citizens to use [broadband] for productive purposes”. Among other key findings, 64% of survey respondents cited affordability as the most significant obstacle to adoption, and 56% cited a lack of ability/skills to use ICTs.

A new Gallup poll shows Internet use “among seniors and Americans of lower socioeconomic status has surged since 2002, but still lags behind that of the rest of the public.”  In 2002, 33% of adults aged 65+ used the Internet, compared to 65% today. Further, in 2002, just 42% of U.S. adults earning less than $20,000 per year in annual household income used the Internet, compared to 73% today. In 2002, 69% of all U.S. adults used the Internet, compared to 87% in 2013.

Nielsen and CBS began a trial to “measure cross-media campaigns on local TV and radio.” The trial is part of an effort to provide more useful analytics to advertisers seeking to develop more effective and measurable cross-media advertising strategies that “address day-to-day and week-to-week reach” and deliver messaging to consumers close to their purchases and actions.

T-Mobile released its Q3 earnings report in which it stated that it has doubled the amount of spectrum used by its LTE networks in 40 of the top 50 U.S. metro markets. The company also plans to upgrade to 40 MHz networks in 22 of the top 25 markets by 2014.

A Brigham Young University study of 276 young adults’ relationship communication habits found excessive amounts of texting for serious conversations to be potentially harmful to relationships. Among the report’s findings, women using text messages “to apologize, work out differences or make decisions is associated with lower relationships quality,” and for men “too frequent texting is associated with lower relationship quality.” However, for both men and women, “expressing affection via text enhances the relationship.”

Eight percent of U.S. adults get their news via Twitter, compared to 30% who get their news from Facebook, according to the Pew Research Center. Twitter’s users are also “younger, more mobile and more educated” according to the report. The report surveyed 5,000 U.S. adults comprised primarily of Facebook users, who made up 3,268 of the survey respondents.

Time Warner Cable released a report last month advocating for the need for the FCC to free up unlicensed spectrum for Wi-Fi.

Apple released its government request report showing law enforcement officials requested info on 2,000 to 3,000 accounts between January and June of this year.