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Math and Science Identity Change and Paths into and out of STEM: Gender and Racial Disparities

Yingyi Ma & Shiyang Xiao

Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World, April 2021

Yingyi Ma

Yingyi Ma

Researchers emphasize the role of math and science identities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. However, little is known about whether these identities might evolve during college; likewise it is not known how changes in math and science identities are associated with switching majors between STEM and non-STEM fields.

This study addresses these questions. With data from the Pathways through College Study, this study revealed that science identity changes matter more than math identity changes in their association with the decision to switch majors. Most notably, underrepresented racial minority women are the most vulnerable in terms of decreasing science identity and the associated probabilities of leaking out of STEM. The authors also find evidence that Asian students are the least sensitive to their science identity drop. These findings have significant policy implications with regard to STEM choice and attainment.