The role of religion and gender in shaping STEM education and workforce participation
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To many, STEM jobs offer tremendous economic opportunities. However, women and girls move away from STEM at multiple points in the education-to-work pipeline and are underrepresented in STEM employment. Researchers have been aware for some time of conservative Protestant discomfort with science, which suggests that conservative Protestants may also move away from STEM at multiple stages in the education-to-work pipeline. Conservative Protestants often hold traditional gender attitudes which may also lead conservative Protestant boys and girls down different educational pathways. This work consists of three analytical chapters, tracking one cohort of respondents from high school through young adulthood. It asks (a): do conservative Protestants behave in importantly different ways at three key stages in the STEM education-to-work pipeline? and (b) do conservative Protestant boys and girls experience different, gendered educational pathways? These questions are answered looking specifically at: high school science outcomes, college major selection, and STEM workforce participation. Data come from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health). Multiple methodologies, including OLS and multinomial logit analyses, were used to address these questions. Chapter Two examines high school science course-taking and GPA, looking at multiple facets of adolescents’ religious social worlds, and finds significant gaps in conservative Protestant science course-taking and GPA . Students’ religious affiliations, those of their parents, and religious friendship networks all played distinct roles in impacting science course-taking and GPA. Chapter Three follows these students into young adulthood, looking specifically at the impact of adolescent religious affiliations and the persistence of religious affiliations on the choice to major in STEM. It looks specifically at the interrelationship between gender and religion in these educational decisions. Finally, Chapter Four follows student further, into young adulthood and the labor market. It looks specifically at the ways that conservative Protestant religious affiliations shape engagement in the STEM labor market for both men and women.