Does More Mean Less? Interest Surplus and the Gender Gap in STEM Careers

M. Teresa Cardador, Rodica Ioana Damian, Justin P. Wiegand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The persistent gender gap in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) career choice represents a perplexing problem for researchers and policy makers alike. We contribute to the body of research on the gender gap in STEM careers by testing a “surplus model” of vocational interests as a predictor of STEM career choice. The model suggests that, controlling for ability, female adolescents with strong STEM-related interest should be less likely to pursue STEM careers when they also have strong interests in other areas, due to wider career options. We tested the surplus model in a large national longitudinal data set and translated the results into differences in annual wages. Our findings illuminate the predictive validity of a surplus model of interests on STEM career choice across gender, provide insight into the gender gap in STEM, and suggest opportunities for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)76-97
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Career Assessment
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • stem career choice
  • stem gender gap
  • surplus model
  • vocational interests

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • General Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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