Wang, M., Eccles, J., & Kenny, S. (2013). Not lack of ability but more choice: Individual and gender differences in choice of careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Psychological Science, 24(5), 770-775.
- This paper examined whether people with high math and verbal abilities were more likely to work in STEM occupations at the age of 33 compared with people with high math but only moderate verbal abilities. The authors also considered whether employment in STEM occupations varied by gender.
- The authors surveyed 1,490 people drawn from a national longitudinal study in the United States—once in 1992 when the respondents were in 12th grade and again in 2007 when the respondents were 33 years old—to ask about occupation type. They also collected math and verbal Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) scores for these people, as well as the number of high school mathematics courses taken and parental reports of parental education and family income. The authors used regression analyses of longitudinal survey data and other descriptive statistical techniques.
- The study found that students’ high school math and verbal abilities predicted whether they worked in a STEM field at age 33. Of those with moderate verbal and high math abilities, 49 percent worked in a STEM job at age 33, whereas only 34 percent of those with both high verbal and math abilities worked in a STEM job. Though more women were in the high math and high verbal abilities group than men, the likelihood of someone with both high math and verbal abilities choosing to work in a STEM occupation did not vary by gender but did vary by the individual’s self-perception on abilities in math in 12th grade.
- The authors argued that people with high math and high verbal abilities could find a wider variety of jobs that fit their skill sets, which might explain why fewer of those in this group pursued STEM careers than those with high math but moderate verbal abilities.
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