December 02, 1990|By New York Times News Service

Of the 933 doctorates in mathematics awarded in the United States in the last academic year, only 43 percent went to U.S. citizens, the lowest percentage on record.

A survey published last month by the American Mathematical Society said that from July 1, 1989, to June 30, 1990, the number of doctoral degrees in mathematics increased by 3 percent over the preceding year, and by 15 percent over the average of the past four years. But only 401 of the recipients of degrees were U.S. citizens.

In recent years, foreign students have won

increasing shares of advanced U.S. degrees in engineering, mathematics and several sciences. The latest survey suggests that the trend is continuing.

The participation of blacks in advanced mathematical training also appears to be declining, the report said. In the previous year, nine U.S. blacks received doctorates in mathematics, a slight increase, but in the period covered by the latest survey, only four were awarded the degree. The proportion of women awarded doctorates in mathematics also fell slightly, from 24 percent to 22 percent.

Dr. Edward A. Connors, a director of the survey who is at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, said, "We are disappointed that the increases in awards to women and blacks reported last year were not sustained."

The survey also indicated that when new holders of doctorates took jobs in teaching or research, they could not expect quick wealth; median starting salaries for new doctors of mathematics are $32,000 for men and $32,500 for women.

Mathematics is a core subject on which all sciences depend, and educators predict that the decline in doctoral degrees awarded to Americans in these subjects will jeopardize the nation's economic prospects.

A year ago, the National Science Foundation reported the results of a study concluding that by 2006, the United States would face a shortage of 675,000 scientists and engineers.

One of the problems, the foundation reported, is demographic. White men now make up 80 percent of the scientific and engineering work force in this country. But by 2010, white men will account for less than one-third of the college-age population.

If greater proportions of women and non-white men cannot be recruited for advanced mathematical, scientific and engineering programs, the lack of trained professionals will severely hobble national technologies that sustain economic health, the study concluded.