The factors influencing students choosing to go into STEM: Economics and gender matter

July 31, 2017 at 7:00 am 2 comments

I saw this in a College Board report, which summarized the paper cited below with these bullets:

  • For both genders, academics played a large part in major choice—passing grades in calculus, quantitative test scores, and years of mathematics in high school were notable.
  • Also important to both young men and women was a student’s own view of his or her quantitative/mathematical abilities.
  • Key drivers in decision making differed between genders. First-generation status correlated with young men being more likely to major in engineering, while a low-income background was associated with young women majoring in scientific fields.

Based on the findings presented here, first generation status leads to a greater likelihood of choosing engineering careers for males but not for females. Financial difficulties have a greater effect on selecting scientific fields than engineering fields by females. The opposite is true for males. Passing grades in calculus, quantitative test scores, and years of mathematics in high school as well as self-ratings of abilities to analyze quantitative problems and to use computing are positively associated with choice of engineering fields.

Source: Choice of Academic Major at a Public Research University: The Role of Gender and Self-Efficacy | SpringerLink

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. alanone1  |  July 31, 2017 at 7:30 am

    Instead of making a comment on “STEM recruiting of all kinds”, here’s a question: what if the STEM fields were rather like music in many important regards? What would be the appropriate efforts that should be put forth in K-12? What would the aims be? What would the expectations be? Etc.

    Reply
  • 2. kirkpams  |  July 31, 2017 at 11:21 am

    After reading through (most) of the paper, I’m left with a question and observation: First, the institution is described as a “Research University (high research activity),” which I assume translates to doctoral granting. To what extent do their findings reflect the types of students choosing these types of institutions? For instance, math success is a strong predictor of the Realistic fields and math is sometimes used as an enrollment filter (e.g., requiring multiple semesters of calculus and differential equations); does the strength of math as a predictor hold up at institutions that don’t use math requirements in this way? I can’t imagine it’d be much different, but it would be interesting to see data.

    Second, the promise of financial success was identified as a stronger factor in attracting males to the Realistic fields. This seems to suggest that using the “CS is where the jobs are!” arguments aren’t neutral; rather they actively undermine attempts to increase female enrollment.

    Reply

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