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Children's and adolescents' evaluations of wealth-related STEM inequality.

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Marlow, Christina 
Hoffman, Adam J 
Joy, Angelina 


The fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are rife with inequalities and under-representation that have their roots in childhood. While researchers have focused on gender and race/ethnicity as two key dimensions of inequality, less attention has been paid to wealth. To this end, and drawing from the Social Reasoning Development approach, we examined children's and adolescents' perceptions of STEM ability and access to opportunities as a function of wealth, as well as their desire to rectify such inequalities. Participants (n = 234: early childhood, n = 70, mean age = 6.33, SD = .79; middle childhood, n = 92, mean age = 8.90, SD = .83 and early adolescence, n = 62, mean age = 12.00; SD = 1.16) in the U.K. (64% White British) and U.S. (40% White/European American) read about two characters, one high-wealth and one low-wealth. In early childhood, participants reported that the high-wealth character would have greater STEM ability and were just as likely to invite either character to take part in a STEM opportunity. By middle childhood, participants were more likely to report equal STEM abilities for both characters and to seek to rectify inequalities by inviting the low-wealth character to take part in a STEM opportunity. However, older participants reported that peers would still prefer to invite the high-wealth character. These findings also varied by ethnic group status, with minority status participants rectifying inequalities at a younger age than majority status participants. Together these findings document that children are aware of STEM inequalities based on wealth and, with age, will increasingly seek to rectify these inequalities.



STEM inequality, rectifying inequality, wealth inequality

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Soc Dev

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National Science Foundation (DRL‐1831593)
Wellcome Trust (206259/Z/17/Z)
Economic and Social Research Council (501100000269)