Research ArticleSOCIAL SCIENCES

Coming out in STEM: Factors affecting retention of sexual minority STEM students

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Science Advances  14 Mar 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 3, eaao6373
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aao6373

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Abstract

Using a national longitudinal survey data set from the Higher Education Research Institute, this study tested whether students who identified as a sexual minority (for example, lesbian, gay, bisexual, or queer) were more or less likely to persist after 4 years in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, as opposed to switching to a non-STEM program, compared to their heterosexual peers. A multilevel regression model controlling for various experiences and characteristics previously determined to predict retention in STEM demonstrated that, net of these variables, sexual minority students were 8% less likely to be retained in STEM compared to switching into a non-STEM program. Despite this finding, sexual minority STEM students were more likely to report participating in undergraduate research programs, and the gender disparity in STEM retention appears to be reversed for sexual minority STEM students.

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