Latinos in science: Identifying factors that influence the low percentage of Latino representation in the sciences
A mixed methods approach was used to identify factors that influence the underrepresentation of Latinos in the domain of science. The researcher investigated the role of family influences, academic preparation, and personal motivations to determine science-related career choices by Latinos. Binary logistic regression analyses were conducted using information from Latinos gathered from the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS: 88) administered by the National Center for Education Statistics. For the present study, data were analyzed using participants' responses as high school seniors, college students, and post-baccalaureates. Students responded to questions on school, work, parental academic influences, personal aspirations, and self-perception. To provide more insight into the experiences of Latinos in science and support the statistical analyses, nine students majoring in science in a private, urban university located in the northeastern part of the country were interviewed. Eleven variables related to parents' academic support and students' perceptions of parental support were taken together as predictors for two separate criteria from the survey. These results identified parents' level of education and the importance of academics to parents in their teen's college choice as significant predictors in determining college major in science. When the criterion was degree in science, the significant predictor was the frequency parents contacted high school as volunteers. Student interviews supported this information, demonstrating the importance of parental support in attaining a degree in science. Academic preparation was also analyzed. Students' reasons for taking science classes in high school was a significant predictor for science major; significant predictors for science degree were the emphasis placed on objectives in math and science classes and number of courses in biology and physics. Student interviews supported this information and demonstrated the influence their own motivation placed on their goals. Survey data were also obtained about the students' test scores and academic achievement. Data collected from the statistical and interview components of the study developed a greater understanding for the lack of Latinos in the sciences as influenced by personal and familial factors.
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- Higher education;Hispanic American studies;Science education