Pipeline Dreams? Gender Differences in Occupational Plans and in STEM Major Completion among a Recent Cohort of U.S. College Entrants

Kim Weeden, Cornell University
Dafna Gelbgiser, Cornell University
Stephen L. Morgan, Cornell University

We use the Educational Longitudinal Survey (2002-2012) to examine gender gaps in the probability of earning a BA in either a STEM or biomedical field or a health field. Gender differences in the completion of these two types of majors are substantial, and they are strongly predicted by gender differences in the content and stability of occupational plans, but not by prior academic achievement, test scores, family-work orientation, or self-assessed math ability. Attrition is also gendered: women who had declared STEM/Biomed majors as sophomores were more likely to leave without a degree than they were to graduate with a degree in STEM/Biomed, the reverse pattern as men. Among the subset of college sophomores who declared STEM/Biomed degrees, self-assessed math ability and family-work orientation have no effect on the gender gap in STEM persistence, and gender differences in occupational plans account for between 10 and 20% of the gender gap.

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Presented in Session 160: Educational Achievement and Attainment