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Persistence of women and minorities in STEM field majors: Is it the school that matters?

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  • Griffith, Amanda L.
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    Abstract

    During college, many students switch from their planned major to another, particularly so when that planned major was in a Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) field. A worrying statistic shows that persistence in one of these majors is much lower for women and minorities, suggesting that this may be a leaky joint in the STEM pipeline for these two groups of students. This paper uses restricted-use data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Freshmen (NLSF) and the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS:88) to examine which factors contribute to persistence of all students in STEM field majors, and in particular the persistence of women and minorities. Although descriptive statistics show that a smaller percentage of women and minorities persist in a STEM field major as compared to male and non-minority students, regression analysis shows that differences in preparation and the educational experiences of these students explains much of the differences in persistence rates. Students at selective institutions with a large graduate to undergraduate student ratio and that devote a significant amount of spending to research have lower rates of persistence in STEM fields. A higher percentage of female and minority STEM field graduate students positively impacts on the persistence of female and minority students. However, there is little evidence that having a larger percentage of STEM field faculty members that are female increases the likelihood of persistence for women in STEM majors. These results suggest that the sorting of women and minorities into different types of undergraduate programs, as well as differences in their backgrounds have a significant impact on persistence rates.

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    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6VB9-50G06CB-2/2/d3fe29537c491dcc0dd578a31addbd07
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Economics of Education Review.

    Volume (Year): 29 (2010)
    Issue (Month): 6 (December)
    Pages: 911-922

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:ecoedu:v:29:y:2010:i:6:p:911-922

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    Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/econedurev

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    Keywords: Educational economics Expenditures;

    References

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    1. Scott E. Carrell & Marianne E. Page & James E. West, 2010. "Sex and Science: How Professor Gender Perpetuates the Gender Gap," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 125(3), pages 1101-1144, August.
    2. Eric P. Bettinger & Bridget Terry Long, 2005. "Do Faculty Serve as Role Models? The Impact of Instructor Gender on Female Students," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 152-157, May.
    3. Rask, Kevin & Tiefenthaler, Jill, 2008. "The role of grade sensitivity in explaining the gender imbalance in undergraduate economics," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 27(6), pages 676-687, December.
    4. John Ashworth & J. Lynne Evans, 2001. "Modeling Student Subject Choice at Secondary and Tertiary Level: A Cross-Section Study," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 32(4), pages 311-320, January.
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    Cited by:
    1. Ehrenberg, Ronald G. & Jakubson, George H. & Martin, Mirinda L. & Main, Joyce B. & Eisenberg, Thomas, 2012. "Diversifying the faculty across gender lines: Do trustees and administrators matter?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 9-18.
    2. Ehrenberg, Ronald G., 2010. "Analyzing the factors that influence persistence rates in STEM field, majors: Introduction to the symposium," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 29(6), pages 888-891, December.
    3. Winters, John V., 2013. "STEM Graduates, Human Capital Externalities, and Wages in the U.S," IZA Discussion Papers 7830, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Wiswall, Matthew & Stiefel, Leanna & Schwartz, Amy Ellen & Boccardo, Jessica, 2014. "Does attending a STEM high school improve student performance? Evidence from New York City," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 93-105.

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