Murray State Theses and Dissertations



This mixed-methods study seeks to investigate the direct effect that socioeconomic status (SES) has on a student's identity, choice, and persistence in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). There is a diversity and wage gap among the STEM workforce, which is comprised largely of White males with higher salaries than their counterparts. Underrepresented minority groups (URMs) are more likely to come from low SES and typically have fewer educational resources. Identifying the relationship of SES across student groups can yield insights about how to address inequitable practices and increase STEM diversity. Quantitative data was collected via a STEM survey, which was coded for identity, choice, and persistence (criterion variables). Regression analysis of the criterion variables was performed using Pell eligibility and food security status as predictor variables for SES. Qualitative data was collected during focus-group interviews, which were transcribed and analyzed for themes related to the research questions. This study discovered that SES was not influential in the development of STEM identity or in students’ choice to pursue a STEM education. However, SES was found to be an important determinant for college choice. Factors that were important for STEM identity, choice, and persistence were family, interest, academic experiences, recognition, and altruism. These factors can be positively affected with the development and implementation of sustainable P-20 programs and incentives aimed at improving academic experiences and fostering strong relationships for students who may be at risk due to demographic factors such as low SES. Improving these factors can influence STEM identity development, thus increasing the probability of student choice and persistence in STEM.

Year manuscript completed


Year degree awarded


Author's Keywords

STEM identity, P20, socioeconomic status, persistence

Dissertation Committee Chair

Jonathan Parrent

Co-Director of Dissertation

Randal Wilson

Committee Member

Sidney Martin

Committee Member

Brandi Stroecker

Document Type