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Advance to Graduate School in the US: How the Path is Different for Women in STEM

Yonghong Jade Xu


A national sample of U.S. college graduates is examined in order to gain a deeper understanding of gender-based differences in the pursuit of a STEM graduate degree. The findings revealed that a significantly higher percentage of women in STEM reported an aspiration for a doctoral degree, and their graduate enrollment rate was significantly higher than that of their male counterparts one year after college graduation. The results suggest that availability of financial aid contributes positively to STEM women’s graduate enrollment, but women’s likelihood of obtaining graduate assistantships, fellowships, and employer tuition assistance is substantially lower than for males. In the meantime, women in STEM are sensitive to cost-benefit calculation in their decision-making about graduate education. They are significantly less likely to pursue doctoral education if their earning at the labor market entry is in the bottom quartile. Marital status, academic performance, and other social and structural factors also influenced women’s decisions about graduate education in STEM. The findings support that individuals’ decision-making is conscious choice behavior based on their internalized social values and personal beliefs that go beyond the cost and benefit calculation.


Women in STEM; Graduate education; gender disparity

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