Educating America's talent in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics: An analysis of the effects of parental and high school factors on females' and males' decisions to enter STEM fields of study
This thesis outlines the problem of America’s declining competitiveness in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), identifies females as a potential resource for regaining competitiveness, and evaluates factors that influence student enrollment in STEM majors in an effort to guide policymaking. The paper evaluates existing research and then attempts to measure the relative effects of student, parental, and school characteristics on students’, particularly females’, decisions to major in STEM fields.
The analysis uses the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS:88) to evaluate two different definitions of STEM fields - one defined by the NCES and one defined in this thesis to include only female non-traditional STEM fields. A multiple regression logistic analysis is performed separately for females and males for each of these definitions and finds significantly different results for each different STEM definition. Regardless of the definition used however, student interest in math and science during high school acts as the most effective predictor of STEM enrollment in college. Finally, the analysis indicates that parents have an effect on boys’ STEM decisions, but not on girls’ decisions, and that high school factors generally do not influence student entrance into STEM fields.
0710: Educational technology
0745: Higher education