There is paucity of data examining disparities in salary and representation for disabled scientists, which is needed to advance inclusion and equity for people with disabilities in STEM. Using data from the 2019 Survey of Doctorate Recipients (United States, N = 1,148,817), we show that doctorate recipients working in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) with disabilities experienced early in life (at age <25>2: 647.2; P < 0.0001), among Deans/Presidents (χ2: 27.4; P= 0.0004) and among those with tenure (χ2: 525; P < 0.0001). These findings support a need to expand inclusion efforts, provide equal opportunities for career advancement and improve working conditions for people with disabilities in STEM.

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Fig. 1: Representation of doctorate recipients with disabilities working in STEM across categories of academic career milestones.

Data availability

SDR 2019 data are publicly available on the NSF’s website (https://ncsesdata.nsf.gov/datadownload/), and Institutional Review Board approval was not required since data were de-identified. All analyses were conducted using R Studio v.2021.09.1. Documentation on the ‘weightit’ (v.0.14.2) and ‘cobalt’ (v.4.5.1) R packages used for propensity score computation and assessment of covariate balance can be found at https://cran.r-project.org/web/packages/cobalt/index.html and https://cran.r-project.org/web/packages/WeightIt/index.html. The code used for our analyses can be found in Supplementary Information (Methods 1).


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We thank the National Science Foundation for their support with inquiries regarding SDR 2019 data. This research received no specific grant from any agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

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Authors and Affiliations



F.C., E.S. and B.K.S. conceptualized the project. F.C., E.S., V.V. and B.K.S. developed the methodology. F.C. developed software. F.C., E.S., J.D., V.V. and B.K.S. conducted formal analysis. F.C. curated data. F.C. wrote the original draft of the paper. E.S., J.D., V.V. and B.K.S. reviewed and edited the paper. F.C. and E.S. performed visualization. B.K.S. supervised the project.

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Bonnielin K. Swenor.

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Castro, F., Stuart, E., Deal, J. et al. STEM doctorate recipients with disabilities experienced early in life earn lower salaries and are underrepresented among higher academic positions.
Nat Hum Behav (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-023-01745-z

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