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
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.
- Aud, S., Wilkinson-Flicker, S., Kristapovich, P., Rathbun, A., Wang, X., & Zhang, J. (2013). The condition of education 2013 (NCES 2013–037). U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch.
- Chen, X. (2013). STEM attrition: College students’ paths into and out of STEM fields (NCES 2014–001). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED544470.pdf.
- DiPrete, T., & Buchmann, C. (2013). The rise of women: The female advantage in education and what it means for American schooling. New York, NY: Russell Sage.Google Scholar
- Eccles, J. S. (2007). Where are all the women? Gender differences in participation in physical science and engineering. In S. J. Ceci & W. M. Williams (Eds.), Why aren’t more women in science? Top researchers debate the evidence (pp. 199–210). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- England, P., Allison, P., Li, S., Mark, N., Thompson, J., Budig, M., & Sun, H. (2007). Why are some academic fields tipping toward female? The sex composition of U.S. fields of doctoral degree receipt, 1971–2002. Sociology of Education, 80, 23–42. doi: 10.1177/003804070708000102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- National Science Board. (2014). Science and engineering indicators 2014. Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation (NSB 14–01). Retrieved from http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind14/.
- Riegle-Crumb, C., King, B., Grodsky, E., & Muller, C. (2012). The more things change, the more they stay the same? Prior achievement fails to explain gender inequality in entry into STEM majors over time. American Educational Research Journal, 49(6), 1048–1072. doi: 10.3102/0002831211435229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Sandler, B. R., & Hall, R. M. (1982). The classroom climate: A chilly one for women. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges.Google Scholar
- Sax, L. J., Astin, A. W., Korn, W. S., & Mahoney, K. M. (2003). The American freshman: National norms for Fall 2003. Los Angeles, CA: Higher Education Research Institute, UCLA.Google Scholar
- Schneider, B., & Stevenson, D. (1999). The ambitious generation: America’s teenagers, motivated but directionless. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
- Snyder, T. D., & Dillow, S. A. (2013). Digest of Education Statistics 2012 (NCES 2014–015). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2014/2014015.
- Stout, J. G., Dasgupta, N., Hunsinger, M., & McManus, M. A. (2011). STEMing the tide: Using ingroup experts to inoculate women’s self-concept in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 100(2), 255–270. doi: 10.1037/a0021385.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Wine, J., Janson, N., & Wheeless, S. (2011). 2004/09 Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS:04/09) full-scale methodology report (NCES 2012–246). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2012/2012246.pdf.
- Xie, Y., & Shauman, K. A. (2003). Women in science: Career processes and outcomes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar