This paper adds to research on girls’ growing educational advantage by examining gender differences in career paths. Using baseline data from an intervention study (TRY-IT!) targeting 265 sixth-graders in Title I schools, our research traces adolescent career aspirations by gender, race and class. Additionally, we investigate whether girls and boys exhibit differential sensitivity to environmental risk and protective factors that shape career and educational aspirations. We find that the career choices of boys vary more widely by social context, including socioeconomic status, race, and academic resources. Specifically, among youth with fewer social and academic advantages, girls aspire to more practical careers and careers which require higher levels of educational attainment relative to boys. The findings reveal how sources of inequality such as race and class shape gendered aspirations and complicate gender inequality. We reason that boys’ choices are more volatile and socially contingent because of the emphasis on high-status careers as a signifier of masculinity.

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Published in Social Sciences, v. 5, issue 1, 5, p. 1-17.

© 2016 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons by Attribution (CC-BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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This research was funded by a National Center for Research Resources Science Education Partnership Award.

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