WASHINGTON -- The number of black Ph.D.s may be rising after a decade of decline, according to new figures made public by the National Research Council.
The council report shows a 13 percent increase in the number of blacks earning Ph.D.s from 1989 to 1991.
In 1991, 933 blacks earned Ph.D.s, a 4 percent increase over the 897 Ph.D.s earned by blacks in 1990. That number represented a 9 percent increase over the 821 black Ph.D.s in 1989. Despite the percentage increase, the actual number of black Ph.D.s is still lower than in the 1980s. The largest number of black Ph.D.s, 1,047, came in 1982.
Nonetheless, Deborah Carter, associate director of the office of minorities in higher education for the American Council on Education, says the percentage change is significant.
"When you're dealing with such small numbers, those . . . percentage changes are important," says Ms. Carter. "We're starting to see a trend."
Last month, the New York Times reported that the number of black Ph.D.s had been declining over 15 years for a host of reasons, including problems with inner-city schools, a lack of role models, a growing number of professional career alternatives, and a lack of financial support for graduate school.
Education experts attributed the reported increase in the number of blacks receiving doctorates to recruiting and retention programs begun by some colleges and universities in the 1970s.
In contrast with Ms. Carter, Frank Matthews, publisher of Black Issues in Higher Education, says: "I think the percentage rise in Ph.D.s is a blip on the screen. I don't think it represents a trend. I think what you're seeing is the fallout from recruiting efforts that were made in the 1970s."
Black Issues in Higher Education, a biweekly, made public yesterday a related report that indicates that most black Ph.D.s still come from black colleges.
"African-Americans do better at historically black colleges and universities, Asian-Americans at Berkeley, Hispanics at the University of Texas at Austin and in Puerto Rico and Native Americans increasingly at Southeastern Oklahoma State University," Mr. Matthews says.
"Instead of us moving closer and closer to integration, we seem to be moving closer to racial polarization."