SURVEY: Boys Less Interested In STEM … But Not Girls

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Rob Shimshock Education Reporter
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The proportion of male students interested in STEM jobs has fallen from over a third to under a quarter, a Wednesday study found.

Only 24 percent of boys 13 to 17 years old indicated they wanted a STEM career — a stat which fell from 36 percent in 2017 — according to a survey conducted by Junior Achievement USA and Ernst & Young LLP and obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“These kids are more interested in careers that have altruistic outcomes,” Junior Achievement president and CEO Jack Kosakowski told TheDCNF, noting a spike in students interested in the medical, dental and first responder professions. “They’re motivated by helping people.”

But the declining male interest in STEM does not correlate with a heightened female interest in the subjects; 11 percent of female teens stated a desire to seek STEM careers in both 2017 and 2018.

“There’s been a lot of focus on attracting girls into STEM careers,” Kosakowski said. “Frankly, I’m a little disappointed … that with all the efforts going on that it hasn’t moved that needle up a little bit.”

“I was surprised to see a reduced interest in STEM careers, which are taking on larger and more important roles in the transformative age in which we are living,” Ernst & Young partner Gary Kozlowski noted in the press release.

While interest in careers in the arts declined from 18 percent to 13 percent between 2017 and 2018, willingness to pursue medical and dental careers grew from 15 to 19 percent during the same time period.

Teens also noted the forces influencing their career paths. Parental influence spiked from 19 to 28 percent between the 2017 and 2018 surveys. Social media influence decreased from 15 to eight percent during the same time period.

The Junior Achievement president described the latter trend as “a bit puzzling,” postulating it could tie into the phenomenon of fake news.

While only 32 percent of teens reported not owning a bank account in 2017, that figure jumped to 43 percent in 2018. The percentage of teens who expect their parents to foot the bill for college increased from 32 to 43 percent over the same time period. (RELATED: Survey: Under $1,000 In Nearly A Third Of College Freshmen’s Savings Accounts)

“Kids are always looking to their parents as the first source of information when it comes to managing their money,” Kosakowski told TheDCNF. “Parents feel uncomfortable talking to kids about their money.”

Teens’ outlook on the economy has improved since 2017. While 52 percent of those surveyed in 2017 indicated they were modifying their career plans based on the economy, only 40 percent said the same in 2018. The economic optimism is also reflected in a drop in the proportion of teens planning to hold a job while attending college; 30 percent of teens surveyed said they would do this in 2017, compared with 22 percent in 2018.

Junior Achievement is facilitating conversation between K-12 students and a quarter of a million volunteers to help students think about paying for college, Kosakowski said. His organization also offers an app, JA Build Your Future, which can help parents and their children determine the time it will take to pay off loans.

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