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Science on the Decline? Educational Outcomes of Three Cohorts of Young Americans

Publication Abstract

Download PDF versionXie, Yu, and Alexandra Achen Killewald. 2009. "Science on the Decline? Educational Outcomes of Three Cohorts of Young Americans." PSC Research Report No. 09-684. August 2009.

Evidence indicates that American students' interest in science education and scientific careers has declined over the past several decades. In this paper, we focus on educational outcomes of three cohorts of American high school graduates using national, longitudinal education data: the 1972 cohort in NLS-72 (National Longitudinal Study of the Class of 1972), the 1982 cohort in HS&B (High School and Beyond), and the 1992 cohort in NELS (National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988). While the pursuit of scientific training is only one potential measure of American science, a decline in the pursuit of undergraduate science degrees by American students would validate the concern that American science is on the decline, as it would indicate a decline in the number of Americans with training adequate to pursue a scientific career. In addition to the trend in the number of American students pursuing scientific training, trends in the composition of this group might also provide evidence of changes in the ability of science to attract talented students, as well as in the accessibility of science training to disadvantaged students.

Country of focus: United States.

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