Census Study Reveals the Diversity of a Professional Sector

Our nationwide sample study proves that nearly half of all environmental educators identify as racial and ethnic minorities

by Rupu GuptaJohn FraserChristina Shane-SimpsonNezam ArdalanSharon Danoff-Burg
Feb 13, 2018

Key Findings

After decades of growth in environmental education (EE) in the US, the number of environmental educators was still unknown in 2017. We led the first-ever national study with an online consumer panel to estimate the size and makeup of the environmental education field. The survey asked whether people identify as environmental educators, whether they’re paid or volunteer for this work, and about their educational background. The study also focused on representation across race, ethnicity, and geographic region.

Based on data from 11,378 people, we estimated there are 3.9 million environmental educators in the United States. People who identify as racial minorities made up 47% of the total number of environmental educators. Compared to the general population, racial minorities are overrepresented in this field -- meaning, they’re more likely than white people to be environmental educators. This finding contradicts existing assumptions about the homogeneity of the environmental education field. .

Let’s Put It to Work

For environmental educators and leaders in environmental education:

Since nearly half of the environmental education field identifies as racial and ethnic minorities, it suggests that there are lingering misperceptions around representation and diversity that might be affecting this field’s work. Leaders and educators in environmental groups need to develop inclusive approaches that increase the visibility of racial and minority groups among their membership. It will also be critical to continue to open pathways to leadership for racial and ethnic minorities in the environmental education sector.

About This Study

We conducted this research as part of our impacts study of Expanding Capacity in Environmental Education Project – EECapacity – which aimed to build on and expand the critical role environmental education plays in fostering healthy environments and communities in the United States. This work was supported by a cooperative agreement between the US Environmental Protection Agency and Cornell University (EPA Assistant Agreement #NT-83497401). Learn more about EECapacity here. This paper was published in Environmental Education Research.

Get the Data

You can access the full dataset from this study here.

Photo by Masonville Cove in Baltimore, Md. on Flickr

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