Race and Representation: How Does Numeric Representation Relate with Career Choices for Middle Schoolers?

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Past research suggests that stereotypes about collective identities (i.e. race, ethnicity, and gender) shape aspirations. However, less is known about how actual representation of collective identity relates to aspirations. The proportion of an identity in a given career will be used as an indicator of numeric representation and I hypothesize that it relates to aspirations of middle school students. In the present thesis, I investigate how the pattern of representation in middle school students’ aspirational careers varied by race and gender groups. Two samples of middle school students were surveyed, and the data were paired with census data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2012 Report. Our results revealed that, on average, Latinx and Black students chose aspirational careers in which their groups are underrepresented in comparison to their national proportion, White students chose careers in which their group representation mirrors their national proportion, and Asian students chose careers in which their group is overrepresented in comparison to their national proportion. No significant gender differences were found. Additionally, the role of perceived fit of collective identity and aspirational identity (i.e. future self) was evaluated but analyses did not reveal significant findings. This study suggests that numeric representation is a relevant factor for middle school students’ aspirations, and it functions differently for different identities.

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  • 06/03/2019
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