"Cross-Domain Predictive Effects Across Math- and English-Related Expectancy-Value Beliefs and Implications for Career Attainment"
AERA 2018 Annual Meeting: “The Dreams, Possibilities, and Necessity of Public Education”
April 13-17, 2018
Title: Cross-Domain Predictive Effects Across Math- and English-Related Expectancy-Value Beliefs and Implications for Career Attainment
Authors: Fani Lauermann, Jacquelynne Eccles
Career choice is one of the most consequential decisions people make. According to Eccles et al. Expectancy-Value Theory (EVT; Eccles et al., 1983), individuals’ academic expectancy-value beliefs are key predictors of achievement-related choices, including career decisions. For instance, individuals who believe to be good at math, and who value math as an academic subject, should be more likely to pursue and attain math-intensive careers than individuals with less positive math self-perceptions (e.g., Eccles, 2009). In addition to such single-domain effects, EVT and the Dimensional Comparison Theory (DCT; Marsh et al., 2014; Möller & Marsh, 2013) suggest that cross-domain influences can shape individual career trajectories (e.g., Eccles, 2009; Nagy et al., 2008). Individuals with high math and high verbal abilities are less likely to attain math-intensive careers than individuals with high math, but only moderate verbal abilities (Wang, Eccles, & Kenny, 2013); and actual and perceived verbal ability and academic values negatively predict math-related career aspirations (Lauermann, Chow, & Eccles, 2015).
The present study expands upon this evidence by examining analogous negative cross-domain effects for both math- and language arts-related career outcomes. We examined (a) potential cross-domain predictive effects of adolescents’ expectancy-value beliefs in math and English on their attainment of math- or English-related occupations in adulthood. Non-math-related career aspirations included human services occupations, which tend to require relatively high verbal skills. In addition, (b) we examined cross-domain predictive effects of math-related and non-math-related career aspirations on math- and English-related adult career attainment.
Using longitudinal data from the Childhood and Beyond study (CAB; www.rcgd.isr.umich.edu/cab), we examined the associations between adolescents’ (N=980) expectancy-value beliefs about math and English reported at the end of high school (in grade 12), their math-related or non-math-related career aspirations (in grade 12), and their actual math-related and English-related career attainment (at the age of 32-37). All self-report measures were taken from CAB (Wigfield & Eccles, 2002), whereas the degree of math-relatedness or English-relatedness of adult occupations was estimated based on ratings provided in the ONet database (www.onetonline.org/find/descriptor/browse/Knowledge). Teacher-rated math and reading aptitude, general cognitive ability (IQ), gender, and parental education were included as control variables in all analyses.
Correlational patterns shown in Table 1 and structural equation models shown in Tables 2 and 3 confirmed positive associations between math-related expectancy-value beliefs, career plans and career attainment, as well as positive associations between literacy-related expectancy-value beliefs and career plans, but not career attainment. In addition, negative cross-domain effects were documented not only for adolescents’ expectancy-value beliefs, but also for adolescents’ math- and non-math-related career plans, although these effects were limited to the math domain: non-math-related occupational aspirations negatively predicted math-related career attainment, even when we controlled for math-related career aspirations. Yet, no clear pattern emerged regarding language arts-related career aspirations and occupations; math-related abilities, motivations, and aspirations were not a significant deterrent from pursuing such occupations. Dimensional comparison effects appear to have different strength across the math and language arts domains.