Back to Where They Belong? How Social Origins and Educational Destinations Matter for Persistence in Gender-Atypical Educational Fields in Finland

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 18:35
Oral Presentation
Irene PRIX, University of Turku, Finland
Anna Erika HÄGGLUND, Leibniz University Hannover, Germany
Laura MENZE, WZB Berlin Social Science Center, Germany
Although men’s and women’s tendency to choose fields of study that are typical for their gender is well-established, we argue that insufficient attention has been paid to the ways in which gender segregation in education intersects with questions of social stratification. Previous research has found students from better-off social origins to be more likely to enter or aspire to gender-atypical fields. But to what extent does social class also affect persistence of men and women who have entered fields not typical for their gender?

Our aim in this paper is to investigate the role that dimensions of social class play for men’s and women’s persistence in gender-atypical fields of study. Drawing on large-scale quantitative data from Finland, we include into our analyses fields of study offered in the vocational sector of the upper secondary system, but also those located at the level of higher education.

In detail, we ask the following research questions:

  1. Does persistence in gender-atypical fields differ between a) men and women, and b) across levels of education?
  2. Does students' social background affect gender-atypical persistence?
  3. Does parents’ field of study affect their children’s gender-atypical persistence?

Our preliminary results suggest that both women and men have a higher risk of drop-out if they have entered a field not typical for their gender. Compared to vocational training at the upper secondary level, this higher risk of drop-out in gender-atypical fields is somewhat lower at the level of higher education, yet only in the case of men. Furthermore, the role of social origins differs between educational destinations, suggesting that the experience of a double minority status (in terms of social class and gender) rather than the level of family resources in itself may affect students’ persistence in atypical fields.