Toward Greater (In)Equality? Gender and Race Segregation in Green Fields of Study in American Higher Education

Dafna Gelbgiser, Cornell University
Kyle Albert, Cornell University

Higher education is responding to student interest in environmental affairs and demand for training for "green jobs" with an ever-expanding array of environment-related academic programs. However, there is substantial variance in the extent to which these programs equip students with the foundation in STEM disciplines needed to access the most lucrative opportunities in the green economy. We use data from the Integrated Post-Secondary Education Data System across ten years to examine trends in the emergence and proliferation of green fields of study. Our results suggest that the emergence of green fields of study may promote greater gender equality in the STEM sector. However, the results are quite the opposite for under-represented ethnic minorities, who are especially disadvantaged in access to STEM green fields. If these trends continue, the green sector of higher education – and, potentially, the green economy that it trains students for, will be gender-balanced but primarily white.

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Presented in Session 13: Gender, Race, Educational Attainment and the Returns to Education