The effect of parental occupation on the gender math gap




Bowden, Monica M.

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Given the underrepresentation of women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professions and the foundational role of math skills in these fields, the gender math gap has attracted sustained scholarly attention. A number of different sociological explanations for the gender math gap have emerged, and various family factors have been linked to girls' math performance. The present study extends this line of research by analyzing the influence of parental occupation on the gender math gap, with specific attention to the effects of parental employment in a STEM profession. Using Bourdieu's theory of social reproduction, this study examines intergenerational influences on standardized math test scores by gender. I hypothesize that daughters of STEM-employed mothers and two STEM-employed parents will score higher on standardized math tests in elementary and middle school. Multiple waves of data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Cohort (ECLS-K) (students in third, fifth, and eighth grades) are used to examine these hypotheses. Results from OLS regression models provide modest support for the hypotheses among girls in elementary school; however, the benefit for girls of having a parent employed in a STEM occupation is not supported in eighth grade. Implications, study limitations, and directions for further research are discussed.


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