How do social and ethnic background and gender affect the choice of educational field?
Centre for the study of professions Oslo University College Oslo, Norway
Analyzing data on the entire cohort who embarked upon upper secondary education in Norway in 1999, the proposed paper examines the choices of educational field in tertiary education. The data are extracted from different administrative registers, and contain information on the educational activity of this cohort until 2005 (that is five years after they were supposed to complete their upper secondary education). The fact that background characteristics and gender affects the level of educational attainment is well established in prior research, but how such characteristics affect the choice of field in higher education is less well known. The proposed paper examines such questions, and focuses on differences between the different professional groups on the bachelor level, such as teaching, nursing, social work, engineering, and pre-school teaching. The paper compares the composition according to ethnicity, social background and gender in the different professional educations, and compares it both to the composition in the group who do not start any higher education and to those who choose traditional academic fields of study. The analyses show large differences between the different educational fields. Most striking is, not surprisingly, the gender differences, and whereas some fields, like nursing, have a large majority of female students, others, like engineering have a majority of male students. More surprising, perhaps is the finding that immigrants from non-Western countries more often choose the more prestigious master programs at the universities. Social background is measured by parents´education and income, and the analyses show tendencies to reproduce the social position of the parent. For instance does Parents´income have a marked positive effect on the probability of choosing business administration, and if the parents have a degree in social work or teaching the offspring tend to choose similar educational fields.