STEM experiences of engineering students from low-socioeconomic neighborhoods

Justin Charles Major, Allison Godwin, Gerhard Sonnert

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The purpose of this research paper is to explore the experiences of engineering students from low-socioeconomic neighborhoods, identify the unequal opportunities they may have to experience STEM and to explore the assets they bring to engineering. As part of a larger project, 15,847 undergraduate students at 37 institutions were surveyed regarding their STEM attitudes, interests, and pre-college STEM experiences. We examined differences in students' pre-college access to and experiences with STEM by their reported neighborhood socioeconomic status to see whether it was a significant factor in students' career aspirations, their opportunities to participate in STEM activities, and their perceptions of their school and home communities. Our results speak to the underrepresentation of students from low-socioeconomic neighborhoods in engineering as only 3.5% of students in our study population were in the lowest socioeconomic bracket based on U.S. Census definitions. Instead, we examined the lower 25%, middle, and upper 25% groupings of student median household incomes from the dataset of students who attend university. Even with this change in socioeconomic cutoffs, our results speak to the disproportionately few pre-college opportunities students from low-socioeconomic neighborhoods have to experience STEM before college, and also the assets and motivation students bring with them to engineering, but that are often overlooked in studies of low-socioeconomic students. This study highlights the need for the engineering education community to change the way low-socioeconomic students are viewed, and to engage in further studies that seek to understand the individual experiences of low-socioeconomic students and the development of their attitudes and beliefs towards STEM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 23 2018
Externally publishedYes
Event125th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Salt Lake City, United States
Duration: Jun 23 2018Dec 27 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'STEM experiences of engineering students from low-socioeconomic neighborhoods'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this