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|This article was originally published as the Executive Summary of the Research and Development Report of the same name. The sample survey data are from the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 Eighth-Graders (NELS) and the 1990 Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS).|
This study examines the gaps related to gender and race/ethnicity in entry, persistence and attainment of postsecondary science and engineering (S&E) education. After reviewing selected prior research and examining potentially relevant variables in two National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) surveys, several variables were selected to create a multivariate model for use in two empirical analyses. The overall goal of the study was to try to determine the relative importance of these variables in sustaining the gender and race/ethnicity gaps in S&E education. The specific goals for the two analyses are described below.
The first analysis examines the link between high school experience and entry into S&E postsecondary programs to explore the extent to which women and underrepresented minorities continue to have lower entry rates into S&E programs at the postsecondary level. This part of the study analyzes data from the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 Eighth-Graders (NELS:1988/1994). Now that the 1994 third follow-up survey data are available, researchers can follow a nationally representative population of 1988 8th-graders through high school and into college or the workforce.
The second analysis addresses issues relating to persistence and degree attainment by underrepresented minorities and women in postsecondary S&E study. It traces a cohort of postsecondary students who began their S&E education in their first postsecondary year (i.e., as freshmen) through a 5-year time frame (1989-90 to 1993-94) using data from the 1990 Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS:1990/1994).
The two analyses are presented in one report to address an overarching policy concern, namely, gender and racial/ethnic gaps in postsecondary S&E entry and persistence. It was thought that presenting both analyses in one report may help readers learn about the policy issues in a more coherent way because entry and persistence are related equity concerns. However, the reader is cautioned against linking the results of the two analyses because the data sources are independent cohorts.
Entering the S&E Pipeline
The findings from the first analysis support an overall notion that much of the racial/ethnic and gender difference in the entry into S&E programs in postsecondary education can be explained by examining family environment, family support, student behavior, and school factors across race/ethnicity and gender. That is, while the initial findings showed that the racial/ethnic gap only occurred among men and the gender gap mainly happened among Asians and whites, further examination showed that students of any race/ethnicity or gender with the following characteristics had a greater likelihood of entering into (i.e., majoring in) S&E in postsecondary education:
Additional findings related to S&E entry include the following:
Persistence and attainment in the S&E pipeline
The second analysis yields important findings regarding underrepresented minority and female students' status in and out of the S&E pipeline.