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Jumping on the STEM Train: Differences in Key Milestones in the STEM Pipeline between Children of Immigrants and Natives in the United States

Research in the Sociology of Education

ISBN: 978-1-78769-078-3, eISBN: 978-1-78769-077-6

ISSN: 1479-3539

Publication date: 30 October 2018

Abstract

We focus our study on children of immigrants in science, technology, math, and engineering (STEM) fields because children of immigrants represent a diverse pool of future talent in those fields. We posit that children of immigrants may have a higher propensity to prepare for entering STEM fields, and our analysis finds some evidence to support this conjecture. Using the National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS: 88-00) and its restricted postsecondary transcript data, we examine three key milestones in the STEM pipeline: (1) highest math course taken during high school, (2) initial college major in STEM, and (3) bachelor’s degree attainment in STEM. Using individual level NELS data and country-level information from UNESCO and NSF, we find that children of immigrants of various countries of origin, with the exception of Mexicans, are more likely than children of natives to take higher-level math courses during high school. Asian and white children of immigrants are more likely to complete STEM degrees than third-generation whites. Drawing on theories of immigrant incorporation and cultural capital, we discuss the rationales for these patterns and the policy implications of these findings.

Keywords

Citation

Ma, Y. and Lutz, A. (2018), "Jumping on the STEM Train: Differences in Key Milestones in the STEM Pipeline between Children of Immigrants and Natives in the United States", Research in the Sociology of Education (Research in the Sociology of Education, Vol. 20), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 129-154. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1479-353920180000020006

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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