Major choices: Maternal, racial, and institutional influence on the selection of academic major
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis dissertation uses multinomial logit modeling and data from High School and Beyond and Higher Education General Information Survey to examine factors which influence the choice of academic major for the baccalaureate degree. Specifically, I examine: (1) how familial characteristics affect individual selection of academic discipline; (2) race differences in the factors that affect selection of major; and (3) how institutional characteristics influence the choice of major. First, content of education is influenced by mothers more than fathers. Specifically, mothers' social psychological attributes have more effect on students' choice of major than fathers' social psychological attributes or either parent's socio-economic characteristics. Generally, mothers encourage children to pursue non-technical degree programs; fathers, when influential, encourage children to pursue technical degree programs. The exception to this pattern is mothers who occupy jobs with high occupational prestige: They encourage technical degree programs over non-technical degree programs. Second, race differences in the selection of academic major are inconsistent with race differences in the factors which influence the selection of that major. Most of the significant differences between racial groups occur between Asian-Americans and non-Asians; Asian-Americans are more likely to major in technical or health related programs. Contrarily, most of the difference in factors which influence the selection of a major occur in the academic preparation of Euro-Americans and non-Asian, non-whites. High school mathematics courses encourage technical majors for both groups but less strongly for other non-whites. More high school English courses encourage non-technical majors for other non-whites, but have no effect for whites. Third, attending a historically black college had non-normative effects. Generally, higher math test scores increase the likelihood of choosing a technical major relative to a liberal arts degree; higher English test scores increase the likelihood of choosing a liberal arts degree relative to a technical major. At historically black colleges, however, students with higher math scores are more likely to major in the liberal arts and students with higher English scores are more likely to major in technical programs.
Degree ProgramGraduate College