Xu, Y. J. (2016). Aspirations and application for graduate education: gender differences in low-participation STEM disciplines. Research in Higher Education, 57(8), 913-942.

Past research has established educational aspiration as an important factor leading to future planning and academic attainment, but there is a lack of scholarly attention to the role of educational aspiration in the pursuit of graduate education. Using a recent nationally representative sample of college graduates, this study examines educational aspiration of college graduates in STEM majors and focuses on gender-based differences in the pursuit of advanced degrees in order to better understand the factors underlying the underrepresentation of women in their low-participation disciplines. Multinomial logit analysis is conducted to identify the factors that contribute to educational aspirations, graduate school application, and gender-based differences therein. The major findings are that (1) educational aspiration is a strong and important mediator to college graduates’ pursuit of continuing education; (2) female students are more sensitive to socio-psychological influences from significant others in developing educational aspirations; (3) given the aspiration for graduate education, women’s applications to graduate school is influenced strongly by family and financial factors. Potential policy recommendations are discussed based on the findings of the study.

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