According to a study, if one of your parents studied STEM (science, technology, engineering, or math), you are more likely to choose one of these options as your graduation major.
The research has been published in the 'Social Science Research Journal'. Sociology researchers -- second-year doctoral student Ned Tilbrook and Associate Professor Dara Shifrer -- found that students whose parents had a bachelor's degree in STEM are not only more likely to choose and persist in a STEM major than students whose parents had no bachelor's degree. But they are also significantly more likely to choose and persist in a STEM major than students whose parents had graduated with a degree in some other field.
Tilbrook and Shrifer call this STEM-specific cultural capital. They suggested that parents passed it on to their children through a variety of ways: engaging in activities or conversations on scientific topics; fostering a home environment that values STEM, and thereby ingraining the values, attitudes, and academic work habits needed to succeed in STEM fields; and encouraging their kids to participate in math- and science-focused extracurricular activities.
What happened at home then impacted their experience at school, with teachers rewarding them with more challenging work, leading to good grades, higher test scores, and ultimately degrees. Tilbrook added that parents with STEM degrees might be better suited to communicate the value of STEM majors and prepare their children for common barriers along the way, such as the so-called "weeding-out" introductory science courses in college.
"Talking to faculty in STEM fields, they have this idea that it all happens meritocratically, where people who have the most natural ability end up in a STEM major and do well in it," Shifrer said.
"But social inequality does play a factor in who majors in STEM and who does well in STEM," Shifrer added. Shifrer said that schools both K-12 and higher education need to fill in the gaps and provide the kind of knowledge and confidence needed to succeed in STEM. "STEM majors shouldn't only be accessible to kids whose parents also majored in it," she concluded.
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