Tag Archives | Education

The Consequences of the National Math and Science Performance Environment for Gender Differences in STEM Aspiration

Allison Mann, Thomas A. DiPrete

Sociological Science, July 12, 2016
DOI 10.15195/v3.a25



Using the lens of expectation states theory, which we formalize in Bayesian terms, this article examines the influences of national performance and self-assessment contexts on gender differences in the rate of aspiring to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) occupations. We demonstrate that girls hold themselves to a higher performance standard than do boys before forming STEM orientations, and this gender “standards gap” grows with the strength of a country’s performance environment. We also demonstrate that a repeatedly observed paradox in this literature—namely, that the STEM gender gap increases with a more strongly gender-egalitarian national culture—vanishes when the national performance culture is taken into account. Whereas other research has proposed theories to explain the apparent paradox as an empirical reality, we demonstrate that the empirical relationship is as expected; net of the performance environment, countries with a more gender-egalitarian culture have a smaller gender gap in STEM orientations. We also find, consistent with our theory, that the proportion of high-performing girls among STEM aspirants grows with the strength of the national performance environment even as the overall gender gap in STEM orientations grows because of offsetting behavior by students at the lower end of the performance distribution.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Allison Mann: Sociology Department, Columbia University
Email: alm2174@columbia.edu

Thomas A. DiPrete: Sociology Department, Columbia University
Email: tad61@columbia.edu

Acknowledgements: This project was supported by Award Number R01EB010584 from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering or the National Institutes of Health. We acknowledge helpful comments by Claudia Buchmann and Joscha Legewie.

  • Citation: Mann, Allison, and Thomas A. DiPrete. 2016. “The Consequences of the National Math and Science Performance Environment for Gender Differences in STEM Aspirations.” Sociological Science 3: 568-603.
  • Received: February 22, 2016
  • Accepted: March 31, 2016
  • Editors: Jesper Sørensen, Stephen Morgan
  • DOI: 10.15195/v3.a25

‘Membership Has Its Privileges’: Status Incentives and Categorical Inequality in Education

Thurston Domina, Andrew M. Penner, Emily K. Penner

Sociological Science, May 6, 2016
DOI 10.15195/v3.a13


Prizes – formal systems that publicly allocate rewards for exemplary behavior – play an increasingly important role in a wide array of social settings, including education. In this paper, we evaluate a prize system designed to boost achievement at two high schools by assigning students color-coded ID cards based on a previously low stakes test. Average student achievement on this test increased in the ID card schools beyond what one would expect from contemporaneous changes in neighboring schools. However, regression discontinuity analyses indicate that the program created new inequalities between students who received low-status and high-status ID cards. These findings indicate that status-based incentives create categorical inequalities between prize winners and others even as they reorient behavior toward the goals they reward.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Thurston Domina: School of Education, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Email: tdomina@email.unc.edu

Andrew M. Penner: Department of Sociology, University of California, Irvine.  Email: penner@uci.edu

Emily K. Penner: Center for Education Policy Analysis, Stanford University. Email: epenner@stanford.edu

Acknowledgements: Research reported in this article was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health under Award Numbers P01HD065704 and K01HD073319, by the Institute for Education Sciences under Award Number R305B130017, and by the Spencer Foundation under Award Number 201400180. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health, the Institute for Education Sciences, or the Spencer Foundation. The authors are grateful to Marianne Bitler, Thomas S. Dee, Ken Dodge, Greg Duncan, David Frank, Eric Grodsky, Andrew McEachin, Evan Schofer, Jeff Smith, and participants in the colloquia at Brown University and University of Wisconsin for useful comments and discussions.

  • Citation: Thurston Domina, Andrew M. Penner, and Emily K. Penner. 2016. “‘Membership Has Its Privileges’: Status Incentives and Categorical Inequality in Education.” Sociological Science 3: 264-295.
  • Received: June 23, 2015.
  • Accepted: August 17, 2015.
  • Editors: Olav Sorenson
  • DOI: 10.15195/v3.a13

Income Inequality and Education

Richard Breen, Inkwan Chung

Sociological Science, August 26, 2015
DOI 10.15195/v2.a22


Many commentators have seen the growing gap in earnings and income between those with a college education and those without as a major cause of increasing inequality in the United States and elsewhere. In this article we investigate the extent to which increasing the educational attainment of the US population might ameliorate inequality. We use data from NLSY79 and carry out a three-level decomposition of total inequality into within-person, between-person and between-education parts. We find that the between-education contribution to inequality is small, even when we consider only adjusted inequality that omits the within-person component. We carry out a number of simulations to gauge the likely impact on inequality of changes in the distribution of education and of a narrowing of the differences in average incomes between those with different levels of education. We find that any feasible educational policy is likely to have only a minor impact on income inequality.
Richard Breen:  Nuffield College and Department of Sociology, University of Oxford.   Email: richard.breen@nuffield.ox.ac.uk

Inkwan Chung: Department of Sociology, Yale University.  Email: inkwan.chung@yale.edu

  • Citation: Breen, Richard, and Inkwan Chung. 2015. “Income Inequality and Education.” Sociological Science 2: 454-477.
  • Received: April 3, 2015.
  • Accepted: April 19, 2015.
  • Editors: Jesper Sørensen, Stephen Morgan
  • DOI: 10.15195/v2.a22

Heterogeneous Causal Effects and Sample Selection Bias

Richard Breen, Seongsoo Choi, Anders Holm

Sociological Science, July 8, 2015
DOI 10.15195/v2.a17


The role of education in the process of socioeconomic attainment is a topic of long standing interest to sociologists and economists. Recently there has been growing interest not only in estimating the average causal effect of education on outcomes such as earnings, but also in estimating how causal effects might vary over individuals or groups. In this paper we point out one of the under-appreciated hazards of seeking to estimate heterogeneous causal effects: conventional selection bias (that is, selection on baseline differences) can easily be mistaken for heterogeneity of causal effects. This might lead us to find heterogeneous effects when the true effect is homogenous, or to wrongly estimate not only the magnitude but also the sign of heterogeneous effects. We apply a test for the robustness of heterogeneous causal effects in the face of varying degrees and patterns of selection bias, and we illustrate our arguments and our method using National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79) data.
Richard Breen: Department of Sociology, Yale University.  Email: richard.breen@yale.edu

Seongsoo Choi: Department of Sociology, Yale University. Email: seongsoo.choi@yale.edu

Anders Holm: Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen. Email: ah@soc.ku.dk

  • Citation: Breen, Richard, Seongsoo Choi and Anders Holm. 2015. “Heterogeneous Causal Effects and Sample Selection Bias.” Sociological Science 2: 351-369.
  • Received: November 4, 2014.
  • Accepted: January 15, 2015
  • Editors: Jesper Sørensen, Stephen L. Morgan
  • DOI: 10.15195/v2.a17

Pathways to Science and Engineering Bachelor’s Degrees for Men and Women

Joscha Legewie, Thomas A. DiPrete

Sociological Science, February 18, 2014
DOI 10.15195/v1.a4


Despite the striking reversal of the gender gap in educational attainment and the near–gender parity in math performance, women pursue science and engineering (S/E) degrees at much lower rates than their male peers do. Current efforts to increase the number of women in these fields focus on different life-course periods but lack a clear understanding of the importance of these periods and how orientations toward S/E fields develop over time. In this article, we examine the gendered pathways to a S/E bachelor’s degree from middle school to high school and college based on a representative sample from the 1973 to 1974 birth cohort. Using a counterfactual decomposition analysis, we determine the relative importance of these different life-course periods and thereby inform the direction of future research and policy. Our findings confirm previous research that highlights the importance of early encouragement for gender differences in S/E degrees, but our findings also attest to the high school years as a decisive period for the gender gap, while challenging the focus on college in research and policy. Indeed, if female high school seniors had the same orientation toward and preparation for S/E fields as their male peers, the gender gap in S/E degrees would be closed by as much as 82 percent.

Joscha Legewie: Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin fur Sozialforschung. E-mail: joscha.legewie@wzb.eu

Thomas A DiPrete: Department of Sociology, Columbia University. E-mail: tad61@columbia.edu

  • Citation: Legewie, Joscha, and Thomas A. DiPrete. 2014. “Pathways to Science and Engineering Bachelor’s Degrees for Men and Women.” Sociological Science 1: 41-48.
  • Received: September 18, 2013
  • Accepted: October 10, 2013
  • Editors: Jesper Sørensen, Kim Weeden
  • DOI: 10.15195/v1.a4