Gender, Socio-Economic Status, and the Link Between Higher Education and Career Choice
Ann Mullen

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



University of Toronto, Scarborough

Primary Discipline

In the United States, though women have gained parity with men in access to postsecondary education, strong patterns of gender segregation by major fields of study persist. These patterns are troubling because they are directly linked to both occupational segregation of men and women as well as gender disparities in earnings. This multi-method study undertakes a detailed analysis of the decision making processes around college major and future occupation choice among women and men across socioeconomic levels. In addition, this study traces these choices to college graduates’ occupational outcomes, including labor force participation, salary, and occupational status. Drawing on a rich qualitative data set including 100 in-depth interviews with junior and senior university students at two sites, this study explores three sets of factors related to choice of major: educational experiences, occupational expectations and family planning. In addition, analyses evaluate how these factors may differ in character and weight by gender and socio-economic background and explore the influence of two different types of postsecondary institutions. Utilizing data from Baccalaureate and Beyond, a large-scale nationally representative survey conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, quantitative analyses compliment the qualitative data by providing a statistical portrait of national differences in choice of major by gender and SES as well as charting the occupational consequences of these choices.
About Ann Mullen

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