According to the findings of a recent study if one of your parents has studied STEM (science, technology, engineering or math) there's a high chance that you will also choose one of these options for graduation.
The research has been published in the 'Social Science Research Journal'.
Sociology researchers — second-year doctoral student Ned Tilbrook and associate professor Dara Shifrer — found that students whose parents had a bachelor's degree in STEM are not only more likely to choose and persist in a STEM major than students whose parents had no bachelor's degree, but they are also significantly more likely to choose and persist in a STEM major than students whose parents had graduated with a degree in some other field.
Tilbrook and Shrifer call this STEM-specific cultural capital. They suggested that parents passed it on to their children through a variety of ways: engaging in activities or conversations on scientific topics; fostering a home environment that values STEM and thereby ingraining the values, attitudes and academic work habits needed to succeed in STEM fields; and encouraging their kids to participate in math- and science-focused extracurricular activities. What happened at home then had an impact on their experience at school with teachers rewarding them with more challenging work, leading to good grades, higher test scores and ultimately degrees.
Tilbrook added that parents with STEM degrees may be better suited to communicate the value of STEM majors and prepare their children for common barriers along the way such as the so-called "weeding-out" introductory science courses in college.
"Talking to faculty in STEM fields, they have this idea that it all happens meritocratically where people who have the most natural ability end up in a STEM major and do well in it," Shifrer said.
"But social inequality does play a factor in who majors in STEM and who does well in STEM," Shifrer added.
Shifrer said that schools – both K-12 and higher education — need to fill in the gaps and provide the kind of knowledge and confidence needed to succeed in STEM.
"STEM majors shouldn't only be accessible to kids whose parents also majored in it," she concluded.