Do They Stay or Do They Go? The Switching Decisions of Individuals Who Enter Gender Atypical College Majors
Drawing on prior theoretical and empirical research on gender segregation within educational fields as well as occupations, we examine the pathways of college students who at least initially embark on a gender-atypical path. Specifically, we explore whether women who enter fields that are male-dominated are more likely to switch fields than their female peers who have chosen other fields, as well as whether men who enter female-dominated majors are more likely to subsequently switch fields than their male peers who have chosen a more normative field. We utilize a sample of 3702 students from a nationally representative dataset on U.S. undergraduates, the Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS 2004/09). Logistic regression models examine the likelihood that students switch majors, controlling for students’ social and academic background. Results reveal different patterns for men and women. Men who enter a female-dominated major are significantly more likely to switch majors than their male peers in other majors. By contrast, women in male-dominated fields are not more likely to switch fields compared to their female peers in other fields. The results are robust to supplementary analyses that include alternative specifications of the independent and dependent variables. The implications of our findings for the maintenance of gendered occupational segregation are discussed.
KeywordsOccupational segregation Academic specialization STEM Stereotyped attitudes College students
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