Gender Inequality in College Enrollment and STEM Major in U.S. 1980-2013: A Family Resource Perspective


Chen, I. Chien (2017). Gender Inequality in College Enrollment and STEM Major in U.S. 1980-2013: A Family Resource Perspective.


The goal of this dissertation is to understand the gender gap in college enrollment and participation in STEM majors, considering changes in family size and mothers’ labor force participation. Different types of family resources and gender-specific family contexts that affect children's college enrollment and STEM participation were explored. I employ a three-article format to examine the links between (1) the trend in the number of siblings, family resources, and the transition into college; (2) the relationship of sibling configuration, sibship-gender composition, and family resource allocations to college enrollment; and (3) the effect of married mothers’ employment on children’s participation in STEM related majors. My first article shows that females’ advantage in college enrollment is associated with number of siblings and family resource allocation. This female advantage in college enrollment strengthens over time and widens between smaller and larger families. My second article draws from the resources dilution model and gender development literature to identify new advantages in college enrollment emerged from smaller families, daughters in the sibling gender majority position, and families with greater socio-cultural resources. The third article examines the effect of married mothers’ employment, found that mothers with full-time or high prestige jobs had a positive effect on children’s participation in STEM in the most recent cohort. School achievement, math self-efficacy, and parents’ expectations are linked to mothers’ role and schooling processes. Taken together, these results demonstrate that the presence of specific family contexts, family resources, and mothers’ roles may exert a net positive effect on children’s college opportunities and STEM interests. In investigating these three linkages I show how the number of siblings, sibling composition, maternal employment, and family resources affect female advantage in college enrollment and STEM participation.



Social sciences College enrollment Gender inequality Resource dilution model Sibling Social change Stem major Sociology 0626:Sociology


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Chen, I. Chien

Series Author(s)

Schneider, Barbara Frank Kenneth

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Michigan State University

City of Publication

Ann Arbor





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