Academic and social influences of underrepresented adolescents' perceptions of opportunity and plans for the future
Sociologists of education have long stressed the importance of students’ expectations for their subsequent success. Yet, an insufficient amount of previous work has considered how academic and social psychological factors guide when and how students develop their expectations for the future, particularly for the socioeconomically disadvantaged and minority students attending our cities’ schools. By using rich survey and administrative data from a large, urban district serving low income and predominantly Hispanic and African American students, this dissertation identifies how these students develop expectations related to higher education in general as well as science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in particular at the start of high school. Chapter 2 examines whether Hispanic girls hold higher college expectations than Hispanic boys because they acquire a superior toolkit of academic resources including achievement, attitudes, and relationships, and/or whether girls are better able to leverage these resources. Further, it considers the potentially gendered role of nativity, language-minority, and socioeconomic status in shaping college expectations among Hispanic students. Chapter 3 analyzes how students’ perceptions of the relevance of science outside of school contribute to gender differences in expectations to major in specific areas of STEM, namely the biological and physical sciences as compared with computer science and engineering. Chapter 4 unpacks the extent to which minority students expecting to major in STEM anticipate that gender- or race-based discrimination may act as a barrier to their goals. Taken together, the findings of these studies underscore the importance of perceptions related to schools, society, and opportunity at the intersection of gender and race/ethnicity for guiding students’ expectations, an important precursor to subsequent behavior and success.