Institutional Selectivity and Occupational Outcomes for STEM Graduates: A Generational Comparison

Jeongeun Kim, Jiwon Jung, Yeukai Angela Mlambo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


To increase the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce, U.S. education policy has emphasized the pathways from education to STEM careers. While some scholars argue that employers prioritize the degree, and not institutional affiliation, in hiring graduates, the argument needs to be warranted with more recent data accounting for the changing market structure. Furthermore, some studies found that having a STEM degree matters more than institutional selectivity, particularly for occupational outcomes of women and racial minorities. Yet there is slim empirical evidence to support this conclusion. Using data from the National Survey of Recent College Graduates, we examine how occupational outcomes are different for different STEM degrees generated by different selectivity of institutions for those who graduated in the 1990s, early and mid-2000s, and late 2000s. Female graduates, although they entered the industry and STEM fields at no different levels from their male counterparts, still earned significantly lower wages. However, we found that the value of institutional selectivity changes over time as it moderates the gender wage gaps in the late 2000s. Minority STEM graduates enjoyed similar salaries to nonminority graduates, but retention in STEM fields after graduation was less likely, but also moderated by the institutional selectivity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)435-464
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Higher Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2021


  • Occupational outcomes
  • STEM workforce
  • engineering and math (STEM)
  • institutional selectivity
  • science
  • technology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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