Don’t Be Too Political: Depoliticization, Sexual Orientation, and Undergraduate STEM Major Persistence

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Informa UK Limited


Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer (LGBQ) students persist in STEM majors at a lower rate than their heterosexual peers. This study posits that heteronormativity, as an instance of depoliticization in STEM affecting LGBQ students, could be a primary contributing factor. Using national, longitudinal data from the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at UCLA, this study tested LGBQ-related college experiences to determine if they help explain the retention gap between LGBQ STEM students and their heterosexual peers. Through multilevel regression modeling, we found that LGBQ status is not a significant predictor of retention in STEM after controlling for LGBQ-related experiences. The results suggest that LGBQ-related and other politicized experiences predict lower retention in STEM for heterosexual students, meaning a culture of depoliticization in STEM may be detrimental to more students than those in minoritized social identity groups.


This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of Homosexuality on 2021-11-11, available online:


academic persistence, STEM education, sexual minority groups, college environment, studrent research, women's studies, gay-straight alliances, campus climate, depoliticization


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