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Pipelines and pathways: Women of color in undergraduate STEM majors and the college experiences that contribute to persistence (Espinosa 2011)

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Espinosa, L. (2011). Pipelines and pathways: Women of color in undergraduate STEM majors and the college experiences that contribute to persistence. Harvard Educational Review, 81(2), 209-240.


    • The study's objective was to examine how undergraduate women of color’s precollege characteristics and college experiences and the characteristics of their undergraduate institutions affected their persistence in STEM majors throughout college compared with white women.
    • The author used data from the Higher Education Research Institute Cooperative Institutional Research Program at the University of California, Los Angeles, to model whether college experiences mediated some of the effect of precollege characteristics and institutional settings on persistence in STEM majors, as hypothesized. Survey data were collected when students entered college in 2004 and again in the spring of 2008, during students’ fourth year of college. The study included a sample of 1,250 women of color and 891 white women at four-year colleges and universities across the United States who were first-time, full-time students. Results were estimated separately for women of color and white women.
    • The study found that both white women and women of color persisted in STEM at a rate of 57 percent from the time they stated an intent to major in STEM at college entrance to the spring semester of their fourth year, and that high school grade point average was a significant predictor of persistence for both groups. As hypothesized, college experiences had a significant effect on the persistence of women of color in STEM: those who found satisfaction with their curriculum, engaged in peer discussion on course content outside the classroom, joined a major-related club, tutored another student, participated in research programs, and intended to major in engineering were more likely to persist in a STEM major; the same factors were significant for white women, with the exception of joining a major-related club. In addition, women of color who attended a private college and an institution with a higher percentage of students majoring in STEM were more likely to stay in a STEM major; the opposite was true for women of color who attended a highly selective institution. For white women, these institutional factors were not significant predictors of persistence in STEM.

Reviewed by CLEAR

May 2016