To Be or Not to Be

Eric Bettinger

in American Universities in a Global Market

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780226110448
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226110455 | DOI:
To Be or Not to Be

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This chapter focuses on an earlier point in the pipeline of scientists and engineers—specifically, the development of scientists and engineers in undergraduate studies. As the labor market models underscore, the decision to become a scientist or engineer largely starts when students enter their undergraduate study and choose their major. The chapter presents a number of frameworks that may shed light on students' major choices and the perceived shortage of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professionals. The focus is extensively on how relative earnings have changed in different professions. The chapter presents new data showing that many of the brightest undergraduate students, who are arguably the most prepared to pursue graduate studies in STEM fields, are systematically moving away from the hard sciences into fields where earnings might be 5 to 15 percent higher. Finally, it examines how women and minorities choose STEM fields. The trends for women and minorities seem to be opposite to those of the overall profession.

Keywords: scientists; engineers; STEM fields; labor market models; minorities

Chapter.  11709 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: International Economics

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