Research in Higher Education

, Volume 45, Issue 4, pp 353–381

Ethnic and Gender Differences in Science Graduation at Selective Colleges with Implications for Admission Policy and College Choice


DOI: 10.1023/B:RIHE.0000027391.05986.79

Cite this article as:
Smyth, F.L. & McArdle, J.J. Research in Higher Education (2004) 45: 353. doi:10.1023/B:RIHE.0000027391.05986.79


Using Bowen and Bok's data from 23 selective colleges, we fit multilevel logit models to test two hypotheses with implications for affirmative action and group differences in attainment of science, math, or engineering (SME) degrees. Hypothesis 1, that differences in precollege academic preparation will explain later SME graduation disparities, was fully supported with respect to the outcome gap between Whites and underrepresented minorities, partially supported for that between Asians and underrepresented minorities, and between men and women. Hypothesis 2, that college selectivity, after accounting for student characteristics, will be positively associated with SME persistence, was not supported. We demonstrate that the significance of the selectivity effect is overestimated when unilevel models are used. Admission officials are advised to carefully consider the relative academic preparedness of science-interested students, and such students choosing among colleges are advised to compare their academic qualifications to those of successful science students at each institution.

affirmative actioncollege selectivityengineeringgendermathematicsminoritiesSATscience

Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesville
  2. 2.University of VirginiaUSA