Sex Roles

, Volume 74, Issue 9–10, pp 436–449 | Cite as

Do They Stay or Do They Go? The Switching Decisions of Individuals Who Enter Gender Atypical College Majors

  • Catherine Riegle-CrumbEmail author
  • Barbara King
  • Chelsea Moore
Original Article


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.


Occupational segregation Academic specialization STEM Stereotyped attitudes College students 



This research was supported by grant (5 R24 HD042849, Population Research Center) awarded to the Population Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Health and Child Development, and also by a grant from the National Science Foundation, EHR-1348819, Catherine Riegle-Crumb PI, Chandra Muller, Co-PI. Opinions reflect those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the granting agencies.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

This statement acknowledges that the authors have no potential conflicts of interest. This research involves surveys collected from human participants (with informed consent), which was collected by the U.S. Department of Education. The researchers have a restricted data license administered by the U.S. Department of Education that allows them to analyze this data. The researchers have IRB approval from their institution to analyze this data.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Catherine Riegle-Crumb
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Barbara King
    • 3
  • Chelsea Moore
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Curriculum and Instruction, STEM EducationThe University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  2. 2.Population Research Center and Department of SociologyThe University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  3. 3.Department of Teaching and LearningFlorida International UniversityMiamiUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Massachusetts at AmherstAmherstUSA

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