Roots and Stems? Examining Field of Study Choices Among Northern and Rural Youth in Canada

Friday, 20 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Darcy HANGO, Statistics Canada, Canada
David ZARIFA, Nipissing University, Canada
Roger PIZARRO MILIAN, Nipissing University, Canada
Brad SEWARD, Nipissing University, Canada
Despite several decades of postsecondary expansion, new research suggests that students from northern and rural areas in Canada remain less likely to successfully transition into postsecondary education, and take longer to do so. While proximity to various institutions does account for some of these disparities, the parental socio-economic status and aspirations, demographics as well as the educational characteristics of youth within these regions also help explain these inequalities. Yet, we know considerably less about the challenges northern and rural youth may face in accessing particular fields of study, and more specifically, their likelihood of entering Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)-related fields. Proximity may also have a considerable impact on one’s choice of field or major, as many of Canada’s larger universities and colleges, who offer considerably more program and degree options, tend to be concentrated in large, urban centres, and in the southern regions of Canada’s provinces. This study draws on Cycles 1 to 6 of Statistics Canada’s Youth in Transition Survey (YITS - Cohort A) to examine regional differences in accessing STEM-related fields at both the college and university levels, the extent to which certain socio-demographic groups within these regions may be underrepresented in STEM fields, and the relationship between these field choices and early workforce outcomes.