Advancing the Science of Science: Patterns of Changing Research Interest Uncovered

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Choice of college major influences lifetime earnings more than simply getting a degree

Date:September 16, 2015

Source:University of Kansas

Summary:A new study based on longitudinal data confirms a college degree provides an advantage in lifetimes earnings, but a related decision once students make it to college could prove to be even more crucial as STEM majors earn roughly $700,000 more over 40 years than social science or humanities majors.

The study that includes a University of Kansas researcher found large lifetime earnings gaps depending on a student’s field of study. For examples, men who major in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM fields, and earning a bachelor’s degree achieved roughly $700,000 to $800,000 higher 40-year lifetime earnings from ages 20 to 59 than social science or liberal arts majors.

“That means the decision for whether for you going to college versus what kind of major you want to study, the latter decision is more important for your lifetime earnings,” said Kim, a KU associate professor of sociology and the study’s lead author.

Social science or liberal arts majors with a bachelor’s degree in social science or liberal arts majors still earn $400,000 more than high school graduates, but gaining an advanced degree in social science does not raise lifetime earnings substantially compared to a bachelor’s degree in the same major, the study found.

Kim said the study is meant to show the labor-market differentials across field of study because there is little research right now in this area. However, the researchers don’t dispute there are other benefits to earning a liberal arts or humanities degree.

“When you are educated, you have a better lifestyle. You can maybe enjoy more complicated books, so you have more engaging or more interesting conversations with value,” Kim said. “There is a whole other benefit of education. A liberal arts education is good, but it doesn’t necessarily transform into a high salary.”

Surprisingly, men who have a college degree in an education major earn only $46,000 over 40 years compared to high school graduates. When a 4 percent annual discount rate is applied for future earnings, the lifetime value of college degree for some majors compared to a high school degree turns out to be slightly negative.

The journal Sociology of Education recently published the article “Field of Study in College and Lifetime Earnings in the United States” online, and the study will appear in the October edition of the journal Sociology of Education.

This is the first study to use nationally representative survey data matched to longitudinal earnings data spanning a long stretch of the same person’s life to document how lifetime earnings vary by field of study and how lifetime earnings change by getting an advanced degree in different fields. Past studies had relied on either one year or a limited number of years of data with projections and did not estimate the effect of field of study on lifetime earnings for those who have an advanced degree.

The researchers examined Social Security Administration personal income tax data to follow the earnings of the same individuals over 20 years and then estimated the long-term effects of fields of study for U.S. men and women. The study included three measures of lifetime earnings: gross lifetime earnings by majors; net lifetime earnings after accounting for demographic and high school performance related factors; and net present value at age 20 after applying a 4 percent discount rate.

Kim said the overall findings likely aren’t surprising because engineering and professional jobs that require STEM or business degrees do gain higher economic returns in the open market. However, he said the degree of difference in earnings suggested the horizontal stratification in education across field of study appears to be more consequential than the usual focus on vertical stratification, which refers to the earnings gap between levels of education.

For one, it illuminates the importance of foregoing some earnings, especially in your 20s while attending graduate school, especially for students in majors that wouldn’t typically earn high returns over their lifetime. Attending graduate school in the social sciences or liberal arts added much less earnings than a graduate student in a professional field, for example.

“The reason why going to graduate school is not going to be very beneficial for some majors in terms of financing is to get the degree you need to spend your time in school for an extended period of time. That’s time you’re not going to be working. Even though you earn more after getting a degree, it is not enough to substantially raise your lifetime earnings,” Kim said.

However, the findings could be key in two other areas: examining the effects of gender on earnings and economic inequality.

Related to gender, college degrees no matter the field of study seem to benefit women with higher earnings compared with women who only graduated high school. For men in some fields of study, the earnings return would not be as high as a woman over her high school counterparts.

“This is not because college-educated women earn more than equally educated men,” Kim said, “but because labor market opportunities for less educated women are so scarce.”

Also, other studies have found that students from less-educated families tend to flock more to STEM fields or others with higher earnings returns than students of educated parents, who might be more inclined to choose a liberal arts degree.

“This kind of major choice we have is one mechanism to actually reduce economic inequality,” he said.


Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of Kansas. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. C. Kim, C. R. Tamborini, A. Sakamoto. Field of Study in College and Lifetime Earnings in the United States. Sociology of Education, 2015; DOI: 10.1177/0038040715602132

Cupid’s Arrow: Light Shed On Laws of Attraction

Feb. 8, 2013 — We’ve heard the clichés: “It was love at first sight,” “It’s inner beauty that truly matters,” and “Opposites attract.” But what’s really at work in selecting a romantic or sexual partner?


University of Notre Dame Sociologist Elizabeth McClintock studies the impacts of physical attractiveness and age on mate selection and the effects of gender and income on relationships. Her research offers new insights into why and when Cupid’s arrow strikes.

In one of her studies, “Handsome Wants as Handsome Does,” published in Biodemography and Social Biology, McClintock examines the effects of physical attractiveness on young adults’ sexual and romantic outcomes (number of partners, relationship status, timing of sexual intercourse), revealing the gender differences in preferences.

“Couple formation is often conceptualized as a competitive, two-sided matching process in which individuals implicitly trade their assets for those of a mate, trying to find the most desirable partner and most rewarding relationship that they can get given their own assets,” McClintock says. “This market metaphor has primarily been applied to marriage markets and focused on the exchange of income or status for other desired resources such as physical attractiveness, but it is easily extended to explain partner selection in the young adult premarital dating market as well.”

McClintock’s study shows that just as good looks may be exchanged for status and financial resources, attractiveness may also be traded for control over the degree of commitment and progression of sexual activity.

Among her findings:

  • Very physically attractive women are more likely to form exclusive relationships than to form purely sexual relationships; they are also less likely to have sexual intercourse within the first week of meeting a partner. Presumably, this difference arises because more physically attractive women use their greater power in the partner market to control outcomes within their relationships.
  • For women, the number of sexual partners decreases with increasing physical attractiveness, whereas for men, the number of sexual partners increases with increasing physical attractiveness.
  • For women, the number of reported sexual partners is tied to weight: Thinner women report fewer partners. Thinness is a dimension of attractiveness for women, so is consistent with the finding that more attractive women report fewer sexual partners.

Another of McClintock’s recent studies (not yet published), titled “Desirability, Matching, and the Illusion of Exchange in Partner Selection,” tests and rejects the “trophy wife” stereotype that women trade beauty for men’s status.

“Obviously, this happens sometimes,” she says, pointing to Donald Trump and Melania Knauss-Trump as an example.

“But prior research has suggested that it often occurs in everyday partner selection among ‘normal’ people … noting that the woman’s beauty and the man’s status (education, income) are positively correlated, that is, they tend to increase and decrease together.”

According to McClintock, prior research in this area has ignored two important factors:

“First, people with higher status are, on average, rated more physically attractive — perhaps because they are less likely to be overweight and more likely to afford braces and nice clothes and trips to the dermatologist, etc.,” she says.

“Secondly, the strongest force by far in partner selection is similarity — in education, race, religion and physical attractiveness.”

After taking these two factors into account, McClintock’s research shows that there is not, in fact, a general tendency for women to trade beauty for money.

“Indeed, I find little evidence of exchange, but I find very strong evidence of matching,” she says. “With some exceptions, the vast majority of couples select partners who are similar to themselves in both status and in attractiveness.”


Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided byUniversity of Notre Dame. The original article was written by Susan Guibert.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.


Journal Reference:

  1. Elizabeth Aura McClintock. Handsome Wants as Handsome Does: Physical Attractiveness and Gender Differences in Revealed Sexual Preferences.Biodemography and Social Biology, 2011; 57 (2): 221 DOI: 10.1080/19485565.2011.615172
University of Notre Dame (2013, February 8). Cupid’s arrow: Light shed on laws of attraction.ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 10, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130208182827.htm

Men Are from Mars Earth, Women Are from Venus Earth

Feb. 4, 2013 — For decades, popular writers have entertained readers with the premise that men and women are so psychologically dissimilar they could hail from entirely different planets. But a new study shows that it’s time for the Mars/Venus theories about the sexes to come back to Earth.

On physical characteristics, like strength (top graph), men and women fall into distinct groups with very little overlap. But for most psychological attributes, including masculine attitudes (lower graph), variability within each sex and overlap between the sexes is extensive. The physical strength graph shows statistical analysis of the scores for the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s long jump, high jump, and javelin throw competitions. The masculinity-assertiveness graph is based on self-reported measures of competitiveness, decisiveness, sense of superiority, persistence, confidence, and the ability to stand up under pressure. (Credit: University of Rochester)

From empathy and sexuality to science inclination and extroversion, statistical analysis of 122 different characteristics involving 13,301 individuals shows that men and women, by and large, do not fall into different groups. In other words, no matter how strange and inscrutable your partner may seem, their gender is probably only a small part of the problem.

“People think about the sexes as distinct categories,” says Harry Reis, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester and a co-author on the study to be published in the February issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. “‘Boy or girl?’ is the first question parents are asked about their newborn, and sex persists through life as the most pervasive characteristic used to distinguish categories among humans.”

But the handy dichotomy often falls apart under statistical scrutiny, says lead author Bobbi Carothers, who completed the study as part of her doctoral dissertation at Rochester and is now a senior data analyst for the Center for Public Health System Science at Washington University in St. Louis. For example, it is not at all unusual for men to be empathic and women to be good at math — characteristics that some research has associated with the other sex, says Carothers. “Sex is not nearly as confining a category as stereotypes and even some academic studies would have us believe,” she adds.

The authors reached that conclusion by reanalyzing data from 13 studies that had shown significant, and often large, sex differences. Reis and Carothers also collected their own data on a range of psychological indicators. They revisited surveys on relationship interdependence, intimacy, and sexuality. They reopened studies of the “big five” personality traits: extroversion, openness, agreeableness, emotional stability, and conscientiousness. They even crunched the numbers on such highly charged and seemingly defining gender characteristics as femininity and masculinity. Using three separate statistical procedures, the authors searched for evidence of attributes that could reliably categorize a person as male or female.

The pickings, it turned out, were slim. Statistically, men and women definitely fall into distinct groups, or taxons, based on anthropometric measurements such as height, shoulder breadth, arm circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio. And gender can be a reliable predictor for interest in very stereotypic activities, such as scrapbooking and cosmetics (women) and boxing and watching pornography (men).

But for the vast majority of psychological traits, including the fear of success, mate selection criteria, and empathy, men and women are definitely from the same planet. Instead of scores clustering at either end of the spectrum — the way they do with, say, height or physical strength — psychological indicators fall along a linear gradation for both genders. With very few exceptions, variability within each sex and overlap between the sexes is so extensive that the authors conclude it would be inaccurate to use personality types, attitudes, and psychological indicators as a vehicle for sorting men and women.

“Thus, contrary to the assertions of pop psychology titles like Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, it is untrue that men and women think about their relationships in qualitatively different ways,” the authors write. “Even leading researchers in gender and stereotyping can fall into the same trap.”

That men and women approach their social world similarly does not imply that there are no differences in average scores between the sexes. Average differences do exist, write the authors. “The traditional and easiest way to think of gender differences is in terms of a mean difference,” Carothers and Reis write. But such differences “are not consistent or big enough to accurately diagnose group membership” and should not be misconstrued as evidence for consistent and inflexible gender categories, they conclude.

“Those who score in a stereotypic way on one measure do not necessarily do so on another,” the authors note. A man who ranks high on aggression, may also rank low on math, for example. Caution the authors: “the possession of traits associated with gender is not as simple as ‘this or that’.”

Although emphasizing inherent differences between the sexes certainly strikes a chord with many couples, such simplistic frameworks can be harmful in the context of relationships, says Reis, a leader in the field of relationship science. “When something goes wrong between partners, people often blame the other partner’s gender immediately. Having gender stereotypes hinders people from looking at their partner as an individual. They may also discourage people from pursuing certain kinds of goals. When psychological and intellectual tendencies are seen as defining characteristics, they are more likely to be assumed to be innate and immutable. Why bother to try to change?”

The best evidence we have that the so-called Mars/Venus gender division is not the true source of friction within relationships, says Reis, is that “gay and lesbian couples have much the same problems relating to each other that heterosexual couples do. Clearly, it’s not so much sex, but human character that causes difficulties.”

The findings support the “gender similarities hypothesis” put forth by University of Wisconsin psychologist Janet Hyde. Using different methods, Hyde has challenged “overinflated claims of gender differences” with meta-analyses of psychology studies, demonstrating that males and females are similar on most, though not all, psychological variables.

Those results were not a surprise for Carothers. Raised by two physical education teachers, the self-described tomboy grew up with “all kinds of sporting equipment… I did not question stereotypical attitudes, I just knew that they did not necessarily fit me and the folks I hung out with.” That experience, she says, fueled a lifelong interest into the biological basis of behavior. When she discovered in graduate school that she could apply her prowess in statistics to exploring sex differences, the project became “a marriage of two interests.”

The authors acknowledge that the study is based largely on questionnaires and may not fully capture real life actions. “Methods that more pointedly measure interpersonal behaviors (how many birthday cards have they sent this year, how many times a month do they call a friend just to see how he or she is, etc.) may more readily reveal a gender taxon,” they write.

By the same token, however, as gender roles are liberalized, the authors speculate that new studies may show even less divergence between men and women in the United States. The opposite may be the case in cultures that are far more prescriptive of male and female roles, such as Saudi Arabia, Reis and Carothers predict.

 

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided byUniversity of Rochester.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.


Journal Reference:

  1. Bobbi J. Carothers, Harry T. Reis. Men and women are from Earth: Examining the latent structure of gender..Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2013; 104 (2): 385 DOI: 10.1037/a0030437
University of Rochester (2013, February 4). Men are from Mars Earth, women are fromVenus Earth. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 5, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130204094518.htm

Working Alone Won’t Get You Good Grades

Jan. 31, 2013 — Students who work together and interact online are more likely to be successful in their college classes, according to a study published Jan. 30 in the journal Nature Scientific Reports and co-authored by Manuel Cebrian, a computer scientist at the Jacobs School of Engineering at the University of California San Diego.

A graph showing interactions between 82 students during the last week of a course. High performing students are in dark blue and form a core where the highest density of persistent interactions can be observed. Mid-performing students are in red and low-performing student sin green. Persistent interactions are shown in thick blue edges, while dotted thin grey edges indicate transient interactions. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of California – San Diego)

Cebrian and colleagues analyzed 80,000 interactions between 290 students in a collaborative learning environment for college courses. The major finding was that a higher number of online interactions was usually an indicator of a higher score in the class. High achievers also were more likely to form strong connections with other students and to exchange information in more complex ways. High achievers tended to form cliques, shutting out low-performing students from their interactions. Students who found themselves shut out were not only more likely to have lower grades; they were also more likely to drop out of the class entirely.

“Elite groups of highly connected individuals formed in the first days of the course,” said Cebrian, who also is a Senior Researcher at National ICT Australia Ltd, Australia’s Information and Communications Technology Research Centre of Excellence. “For the first time, we showed that there is a very strong correspondence between social interaction and exchange of information — a 72 percent correlation,” he said “but almost equally interesting is the fact that these high-performing students form ‘rich-clubs’, which shield themselves from low-performing students, despite the significant efforts by these lower-ranking students to join them. The weaker students try hard to engage with the elite group intensively, but can’t. This ends up having a marked correlation with their dropout rates.”

This study co-authored by Luis M. Vaquero, based at Hewlett-Packard UK Labs, shows a way that we might better identify patterns in the classroom that can trigger early dropout alarms, allowing more time for educators to help the student and, ideally, reduce those rates through appropriate social network interventions.

Cebrian’s work is part of UC San Diego’s wider research effort at the intersection of the computer and social sciences, led by Prof. James H. Fowler, to enhance our understanding of the ways in which people share information and how this impacts areas of national significance, such as the spread of health-related or political behavior.


Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided byUniversity of California – San Diego.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.


Journal Reference:

  1. Luis M. Vaquero, Manuel Cebrian. The rich club phenomenon in the classroomScientific Reports, 2013; 3 DOI: 10.1038/srep01174
University of California – San Diego (2013, January 31). Working alone won’t get you good grades. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 2, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130131144454.htm

Empathy Varies by Age and Gender: Women in Their 50s Are Tops

Jan. 30, 2013 — According to a new study of more than 75,000 adults, women in that age group are more empathic than men of the same age and than younger or older people.


“Overall, late middle-aged adults were higher in both of the aspects of empathy that we measured,” says Sara Konrath, co-author of an article on age and empathy forthcoming in the Journals of Gerontology: Psychological and Social Sciences.

“They reported that they were more likely to react emotionally to the experiences of others, and they were also more likely to try to understand how things looked from the perspective of others.”

For the study, researchers Ed O’Brien, Konrath and Linda Hagen at the University of Michigan and Daniel Grühn at North Carolina State University analyzed data on empathy from three separate large samples of American adults, two of which were taken from the nationally representative General Social Survey.

They found consistent evidence of an inverted U-shaped pattern of empathy across the adult life span, with younger and older adults reporting less empathy and middle-aged adults reporting more.

According to O’Brien, this pattern may result because increasing levels of cognitive abilities and experience improve emotional functioning during the first part of the adult life span, while cognitive declines diminish emotional functioning in the second half.

But more research is needed in order to understand whether this pattern is really the result of an individual’s age, or whether it is a generational effect reflecting the socialization of adults who are now in late middle age.

“Americans born in the 1950s and ’60s — the middle-aged people in our samples — were raised during historic social movements, from civil rights to various antiwar countercultures,” the authors explain. “It may be that today’s middle-aged adults report higher empathy than other cohorts because they grew up during periods of important societal changes that emphasized the feelings and perspectives of other groups.”

Earlier research by O’Brien, Konrath and colleagues found declines in empathy and higher levels of narcissism among young people today as compared to earlier generations of young adults.

O’Brien and Konrath plan to conduct additional research on empathy, to explore whether people can be trained to show more empathy using new electronic media, for example. “Given the fundamental role of empathy in everyday social life and its relationship to many important social activities such as volunteering and donating to charities, it’s important to learn as much as we can about what factors increase and decrease empathic responding,” says Konrath.


Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided byUniversity of Michigan. The original article was written by Diane Swanbrow.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.


Journal Reference:

  1. E. O’Brien, S. H. Konrath, D. Gruhn, A. L. Hagen.Empathic Concern and Perspective Taking: Linear and Quadratic Effects of Age Across the Adult Life Span.The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 2012; DOI:10.1093/geronb/gbs055
University of Michigan (2013, January 30). Empathy varies by age and gender: Women in their 50s are tops. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 31, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130130184324.htm