Brothers, Sisters, and STEM Majoring: Is a Younger Sibling's Choice of College Major Affected by the Firstborn's Sex and Ability in Math?

Limor Gabay-Egozi , Bar-Ilan University
Lloyd D. Grieger, Yale University
Natalie Nitsche, Wittgenstein Centre (IIASA, VID/ÖAW, WU)

Though women reached parity with men in terms of college attendance, fewer women choose STEM majors. We examine whether the compositional characteristics of a sib-group are associated with a younger sibling’s decision to pursue a STEM major in college. Theoretically, we conjoin and extend sociological theories that link sib-group configuration and educational attainment to STEM majoring. Empirically, we use data from the children of the NLSY79-cohort and find that sib-group size is negatively associated with pursuing a STEM major. We show that math ability of the firstborn is positively associated with a sibling’s choice of a STEM major in college, but only among same-sex siblings. Finally, number of brothers is positively associated with choosing a STEM major for both girls and boys. Our work is the first to provide evidence about the link between sib-group compositional characteristics and the choice of college major by younger siblings in the U.S.

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 Presented in Session 8. Economy, Labor Force, Education, & Inequality