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The Social Pipeline: How Friend Influence and Peer Exposure Widen the STEM Gender Gap


Raabe, Isabel J; Boda, Zsófia; Stadtfeld, Christoph (2019). The Social Pipeline: How Friend Influence and Peer Exposure Widen the STEM Gender Gap. Sociology of Education, 92(2):105-123.

Abstract

Individuals’ favorite subjects in school can predetermine their educational and occupational careers. If girls develop weaker preferences for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), it can contribute to macrolevel gender inequalities in income and status. Relying on large-scale panel data on adolescents from Sweden (218 classrooms, 4,998 students), we observe a widening gender gap in preferring STEM subjects within a year (girls, 19 to 15 percent; boys, 21 to 20 percent). By applying newly developed random-coefficient multilevel stochastic actor-oriented models on social network data (27,428 friendships), we investigate how social context contributes to those changes. We find strong evidence that students adjust their preferences to those of their friends (friend influence). Moreover, girls tend to retain their STEM preferences when other girls in their classroom also like STEM (peer exposure). We conclude that these mechanisms amplify preexisting preferences and thereby contribute to the observed dramatic widening of the STEM gender gap.

Abstract

Individuals’ favorite subjects in school can predetermine their educational and occupational careers. If girls develop weaker preferences for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), it can contribute to macrolevel gender inequalities in income and status. Relying on large-scale panel data on adolescents from Sweden (218 classrooms, 4,998 students), we observe a widening gender gap in preferring STEM subjects within a year (girls, 19 to 15 percent; boys, 21 to 20 percent). By applying newly developed random-coefficient multilevel stochastic actor-oriented models on social network data (27,428 friendships), we investigate how social context contributes to those changes. We find strong evidence that students adjust their preferences to those of their friends (friend influence). Moreover, girls tend to retain their STEM preferences when other girls in their classroom also like STEM (peer exposure). We conclude that these mechanisms amplify preexisting preferences and thereby contribute to the observed dramatic widening of the STEM gender gap.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Sociology
Dewey Decimal Classification:300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Education
Social Sciences & Humanities > Sociology and Political Science
Uncontrolled Keywords:Sociology and Political Science, Education, Social Networks
Language:English
Date:1 April 2019
Deposited On:31 Oct 2019 09:38
Last Modified:29 Jul 2020 11:32
Publisher:American Sociological Association
ISSN:0038-0407
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1177/0038040718824095

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