Decomposing the Racial Gap in STEM Major Attrition: A Course-Level Investigation

76 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2016

See all articles by Matthew Baird

Matthew Baird

RAND Corporation

Moshe Buchinsky

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Economics; National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) - Center for Research in Economics and Statistics (CREST); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Veronica Sovero

California Institute of Technology

Date Written: October 23, 2016

Abstract

This paper examines differences in STEM retention between minority and non-minority undergraduate students. To do so, we use detailed student records of a student’s courses, grades, and current major for every term the student was enrolled in a large public university. To examine the role of ability in the switching decision and timing, we estimate STEM and non-STEM ability, and then compare the joint distribution of students who switch out of STEM versus STEM stayers. Students with relatively greater non-STEM ability are more likely to switch out of STEM, but ability cannot completely account for the differences in switching patterns for Hispanic and Black students. In fact, Black and Hispanic students are more likely to persist in STEM after ability is taken into account. We also find evidence of switching behavior that appears motivated by a preference for graduation within four years.

Suggested Citation

Baird, Matthew and Buchinsky, Moshe and Sovero, Veronica, Decomposing the Racial Gap in STEM Major Attrition: A Course-Level Investigation (October 23, 2016). RAND Working Paper Series WR- 1171, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2870049 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2870049

Matthew Baird (Contact Author)

RAND Corporation ( email )

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Moshe Buchinsky

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Economics ( email )

Box 951477
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1477
United States

National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) - Center for Research in Economics and Statistics (CREST)

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Malakoff Cedex, 1 92245
France

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Cambridge, MA 02138
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Veronica Sovero

California Institute of Technology ( email )

Pasadena, CA 91125
United States

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