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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.

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Griffith, Amanda L., 2010. "Persistence of women and minorities in STEM field majors: Is it the school that matters?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 29(6), pages 911-922, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecoedu:v:29:y:2010:i:6:p:911-922
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    References listed on IDEAS

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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, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(3), pages 1101-1144.
    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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Winters, John V., 2014. "STEM graduates, human capital externalities, and wages in the U.S," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 190-198.
    2. David L. Sjoquist & John V. Winters, 2015. "State Merit Aid Programs and College Major: A Focus on STEM," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(4), pages 973-1006.
    3. Jetter, Michael & Walker, Jay K., 2017. "Gender Differences in Competitiveness and Risk-Taking among Children, Teenagers, and College Students: Evidence from Jeopardy!," IZA Discussion Papers 11201, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. John V. Winters, 2017. "Do Native STEM Graduates Increase Innovation? Evidence from U.S. Metropolitan Areas," Economics Working Paper Series 1714, Oklahoma State University, Department of Economics and Legal Studies in Business.
    5. David Sjoquist & John Winters, 2015. "The effect of Georgia’s HOPE scholarship on college major: a focus on STEM," IZA Journal of Labor Economics, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 4(1), pages 1-29, December.
    6. Adriana D. Kugler & Catherine H. Tinsley & Olga Ukhaneva, 2017. "Choice of Majors: Are Women Really Different from Men?," NBER Working Papers 23735, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Shulamit Kahn & Donna Ginther, 2017. "Women and STEM," NBER Working Papers 23525, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Hill, Andrew J., 2017. "State affirmative action bans and STEM degree completions," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 31-40.
    9. 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.
    10. repec:gam:jscscx:v:7:y:2018:i:2:p:23-:d:129593 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. 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.
    12. Winters, John V., 2014. "Foreign and Native-Born STEM Graduates and Innovation Intensity in the United States," IZA Discussion Papers 8575, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    13. Jetter, Michael & Walker, Jay K., 2016. "Gender in Jeopardy!: The Role of Opponent Gender in High-Stakes Competition," IZA Discussion Papers 9669, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    14. Bottia, Martha Cecilia & Stearns, Elizabeth & Mickelson, Roslyn Arlin & Moller, Stephanie & Valentino, Lauren, 2015. "Growing the roots of STEM majors: Female math and science high school faculty and the participation of students in STEM," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 14-27.
    15. 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.
    16. Arcidiacono, Peter & Aucejo, Esteban M. & Hotz, V. Joseph, 2016. "University differences in the graduation minorities in STEM fields: evidence from California," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 64178, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    17. Kugler, Adriana & Tinsley, Catherine H. & Ukhaneva, Olga, 2017. "Choice of Majors: Are Women Really Different from Men?," IZA Discussion Papers 10947, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    18. Yonghong Jade Xu, 2016. "Aspirations and Application for Graduate Education: Gender Differences in Low-Participation STEM Disciplines," Research in Higher Education, Springer;Association for Institutional Research, vol. 57(8), pages 913-942, December.

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    Educational economics Expenditures;

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