Gender and Access to College update

So, one of the strange but interesting findings from my 10th grade study was that the more important girls considered relationships, the more likely they were to go to college. However, the more important boys considered relationships, the LESS likely they were to go to college.

So, using the 12th grade follow-up (or rather, the 2 year later follow-up, not all were in 12th grade or even still in school), I tested every individual element of importance of relationships, namely (1) having a family, (2) marrying the right person, (3) supporting your family, (4) maintaining close ties with friends, and (5) taking care of a family member. Of those 5, only two work in different directions in the connection from importance of relationships to that specific 12th grade piece to attending college -- supporting your family and maintaining close ties with friends.

Supporting the family is not related to girls' views about relationships, but is to boys. And while supporting your family is a negative predictor for both genders, it is 5 times more likely to keep boys out of college than girls.

On the other hand, importance of relationships is related to girls having more school-oriented and supportive friends (more friends who want to go to college, more friends who want respondent to go to college, more friends who are involved in learning activities). Having more of these kinds of friend positively predicts both male and female attendance at post-secondary educational institutions, but it was almost 180 times more important for girls than for boys. Not percent, times. One SD increase in this composite predicted boys increasing their likelihood of attending PSE by 10%. The same change in the friend measure increased girls' likelihood of attending PSE by 178%.

So, "relationships" to 10th grade boys means taking a role in supporting the family, which is done in place of PSE. To girls, it means going along with your friends, and going to college because you care about your friends and they are going.

And all gets more complicated.

Purpose of school

I'm getting ready to teach my summer course, which is called "The Achievement Gap in Higher Education," which is a 10 week look at who gets to go to college, what they get out of it, and why those things split on group differences.

The first question to address, though, is what the purpose of post-secondary education really is. I have had a number of different responses to that problem, ranging from "It is good to know things" to "It provides a well-defined path to a very limited set of career options."

By the time you are done with high school, you've run out of the top two reasons covered by public commitment to education, which are "political equity" and "babysitting." We don't send people to college to learn to be knowledgeable voters, or even supporters of the public good.

Most careers do not require any college level training at all, just a thorough apprenticeship. However, we are increasingly using college to limit access to that apprentice stage, so there's that - the credential of the thing.

But maybe still babysitting. If they don't go to college, what do we do with all those high school graduates? Is the purpose of college to turn teen-agers into independent adults? That would play better if it wasn't true that over half (62%) of beginning post-secondary students are already independent adults - living on their own, many with children, very many already fully employed. So....

It is important to nail down, because access to college is very much a socially differentiated commodity, so we need to clearly understand what it is exactly that is being socially limited. Is it the experience itself or access to some other experience? And how does it play out in terms of people's adult opportunity?

Articles ready to go

I'm spending most of my energy right now working on getting a couple of articles out.

One is almost ready to go. It is a study looking at change in counseling clients' self-report of problems as they progress through therapy The critical predictors are social support and client-therapist relationship. The results are: 1) Higher social support by itself is associated with lower initial problem level but LESS decline in problem level over time; 2) Higher (more positive) client-patient relationship by itself is associated with lower initial level and also greater drop in problems over time; and 3) in combination, stronger social support *inhibits* the impact of client-therapist relationship. Put another way, the only clients who experience the advantage of strong client-therapist relationship are those who lack other social support in their lives. Clients with strong social support have a more flat response to therapy regardless of their relationship with their therapist.

The other paper I've been working on on-and-off since 2008. It has to do with the impact of iron therapy in infancy (from 12 to 24 months) on 10 year cognitive outcomes. The overall result was that higher iron concentration in oral supplements were associated with lower cognitive results. The more refined result was that high iron supplement was associated with HIGHER cognitive outcomes for kids with low 6 month iron levels, LOWER cognitive outcomes for kids with higher 6 month iron levels. So, the result for the science community means that you cannot randomize kids into high iron therapy - you have to test their initial iron levels because apparently there IS such a thing as too much iron. For the general public, the results mean that doctors (and parents) need to make certain of initial iron levels before undertaking iron therapy during infancy.

Back to finishing touches.

(no subject)

My (our - I am second author on the paper as it is about iron deficiency anemia and she is the head of that project) got accepted by Journal of Pediatrics. I am psyched. I'd include more exclamation points, but it is late and I have no energy for more posting, much less enthusiastic tossing about of punctuation. But, yeah me.

I can't get stuff done on Thursday

My teaching day is Wednesday. Since I commute 75-90 min one way, I try hard to not have to go in that often. That means that I (1) do a great deal of my work from home (emailing chapters back and forth, writing, running analyses, and a ton of email), and (2) I try to load up the days I do go in with all the things I can't do remotely. So, a typical on-campus day for me is like yesterday: 12-1 mt doc student, 1-1:30 counsel prospective doc applicant, 1:30-2:30 consult with colleague about why the analysis she did will make any statistician reviewer throw up and how to fix it (not treating race/ethnicity as an interval variable to start with), 2:30-3 more applicant counseling, 3-3:30 short meeting with doc student to get her unstuck on chapter 2, 3:30-5 proposal defense, 5-8:30 teach class.

The upshot being, I can't do anything much other than be very persnickity on email for an occasional question, run a load of laundry, and take the child to piano lessons. and that's it. It is like my brain finishes with a Wednesday and says "Nope, not thinking about anything. I don't care about your deadlines. I have no thoughts available." So, I need a different day to be a work day - maybe Sunday. But it is awkward. It would be much more productive if I could just work all the time. But apparently not.

(no subject)

I am switching gears from gender and access to careers (and the role of education) to different ways to model the impact of risk in the context of examining biological insult in child development. To whit...

A fundamental challenge in examining the impact of any biological insult in child development is the reality that such situations do not occur in a vacuum. While physical damage can and does occur outside the context of environmental risk, it has been confirmed time after time that infants face greater likelihood of many different conditions, including iron deficiency anemia, in environmental circumstances that present other risk factors. Cumulative risk models equate all risk factors to child development and simply count the number present in a child's environment. Multiple risk models use multivariate analysis to maintain the unique impact of each risk factor, but allow the covariance between risks to eliminate all but the risks most correlated to the outcome to remain in the model. Neither model undertakes to examine the nature of interconnected risk factors, even at the most elementary level of examining mediation between different risks. This study examined the ways in which multiple risks may intersect and impact each other, as well as the biological risk factor of iron deficiency anemia, to affect long-term cognitive development.

That is likely going to be the first paragraph in the article I'm writing for the journal Child Development. I am in the typical-for-me position of knowing what the results are but struggling with framing the results in a context that clearly makes sense of why I did the work. Other than "Because it is cool to know..."

More thoughts about gender

So I interviewed my girl, who is 11, on this who gender-identity thing. For her, there are boy things and girl things and neutral things. Now, the tricky part:
1) Being good at computers, according to her, is a boy thing. But, she maintains, boys don't think of it that way. They think it is a neutral thing.
2) On what to be when one grows up - she can list out boy careers and girl careers, and points out that it is hard to find a girl career that is "worth doing" (for the record, according to her, girl careers are waitress, nurse, make-up artist, hair stylist, and flight attendant). So according to her, to be something worth doing, you have to be willing to do a boy career.

So.... hmmmm....

Oh, another interesting point she made, concerning her technology training, was that the male teacher was more sympathetic to the girls than the boys, and that was the only difference she noticed when she was learning about computers. So, she was being taught that having trouble with computers is ok for girls, but is not ok for boys. Hence, being good at computers is a boy thing to do.

More hmmmmm....

And then there is the issue of relationships, which fjm brought up in my last post. One reaction I had to that idea was to wonder what relationships have to do with going to college or not. And I realized I HAVE evidence that that issue is a gendered conversation. In the paper we have already finished, we found that the more that 10th grade girls were invested in relationships, the higher the likelihood they would go to college out of high school, but the higher boys expressed the importance of relationships, the LESS likely they were to go to college. So I do think that fjm is right - the sexual orientation issue may be a relationship issue, but the gender identity issue cuts across that line in a somewhat different direction.

And I am still poking at the edges of this thing.

Pondering my blind spots

- disclaimer - I am at the early mental stages of working this stuff out, so what I write here may not actually be what I think.

So, I am about to frame my first serious delving into qualitative research, looking at gender differences in access to information technology fields, focusing on the role of education vs. informal apprenticeship. I am working with a colleague and friend who is more of a feminist scholar than I am, but I am more a sociologist than she is.

We are at the stage of developing connections for possible participants. She has been pushing us to include lesbians and gay men in our pool, which I have been not really processing, but at some level resisting. Today, digging my way through grounded theory approaches to methodology, my brain sorted something out.

I have been treating gender strictly in terms of historical power differences and career access pathways, social roles. What my colleague wants is for us to include sexuality in the articulation of social roles. So I'm really uncomfortable with that, not emotionally but in terms of my theoretical paradigm. I have a hard time integrating who one wants to have sex with in connection with traditional oppression models of power and control, social articulations of who you are allowed to be and what you are allowed to do, and the orienting experiences that develop different skill sets.

So, now I'm up against my own blind spot. I really do have no idea the extent to which the gender of the person you want to have sex with has to do with the power nd control dynamics that play out in differentiating experience and credentialed access to careers. And I don't know what to do with it.

I think I need to talk with some lesbians and gay men and try to figure it out.

Valuable discomfort

I am white. I don't usually think about it, but there it is. I am a white, privileged, heterosexual female person, and it is part of my person (happily not all of it. The reason I don't think about it much is that I don't have to - everyone around me is usually white, of my social class and intellectual background, and cross-gender-partnered (though of all my commonalities, that one is the loosest). And I don't think about that very often either.

I am a good sociologist, I process power, and I try to think hard and long about power when I am carrying it around. I thought about it when we did admissions this year, and took extra processing to make certain that test-scores were not being equated with quality of thinking and tried to make it possible for more people *not like me* to be comfortable in this program. And I hope that I did a good job.

Because, last night I had a very valuable experience, one I haven't really gone through since I was a woman in an all male Ph.d. math program. I was the only one of "me" in a room of 300 "not me" people. I usually don't go to doctoral students' celebrations (small child, sick Dad, there were many reasons), but I have started having the opportunity to go again. And my doc. student (oops - FORMER doc student, now full on Doctor) had a wonderful full-on support system village that was all African American. I was the only white face, and I found myself looking for other white faces (and then feeling embarrassed that I was doing that, and then spiraling into a sociologist zeit-gist of recognition of otherness and shame that this experience is in fact unusual enough to be of note).

So, other than recommitting to making certain that our doctoral admissions takes otherness seriously as valuable to ALL our students, I'm trying to process how sloppy I have become in my little comfort niche surrounded by people like me. Time to really work on pushing more boundaries.

Walking and writing

Had a lovely 3 mile walk in perfect cool sunny weather. Now I am working through the details of revising my analysis of multiple risk (adding in four more risk factors, rerunning the threshold analysis) and framing the outline of the article so that I can do it in bits. It is the smallest unit I can think of that I can actually get done. I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed by the process lately, which means I have to break it into smaller bits. That's it - off to write.