This paper examines the extent to which prospective engineers follow in their parents’ footsteps. Specifically, we investigate the connection between fathers’ and mothers’ employment in the engineering profession and the career plans of sons and daughters. We develop a number of reasons to expect an occupation-specific intergenerational association in this field, as well as hypotheses regarding gender-specific role-modeling. Data are drawn from the UCLA HERI Freshman Survey data spanning 1971 to 2011. The results point to clear and substantial effects on sons and daughters’ plans to pursue engineering, connections that cannot be explained by typical pathways such as social background, education and values. The evidence points to a pattern of increasing salience of mothers with respect to the career plans of their children, especially their daughters. The implications of these findings for the under-representation of women in engineering and for gender-specific family dynamics are discussed in the conclusion.
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