Socioeconomic Stratification in College STEM Persistence
Chelsea Moore, University of Texas at Austin
Little research to date has focused on socioeconomic stratification in postsecondary education by field of study. Given that STEM occupations are among the most highly rewarded in the labor market, SES differences in STEM success may have broader implications. Previous research finds that SES affects college persistence overall and cites several reasons for these effects, but it is unclear whether this varies by field of study. Using a recent cohort of first-time postsecondary matriculants (BPS 04/09), this paper focuses on SES differences in college persistence in STEM, looking at both switching major and leaving college altogether before obtaining a degree. It also considers differences by college type (two-year versus four-year) and college selectivity and looks at the possible mediating and moderating effects of employment and academic and social integration. Preliminary results suggest that STEM majors with lower levels of SES may be especially disadvantaged in college persistence.