Sociology, Department of


Document Type


Date of this Version



2020 Author(s)


J STEM Outreach. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2020 January 03.


The current study explores patterns of informal science experiences among youth in urban and rural middle schools by gender and socioeconomic status. Data come from surveys in two Midwestern middle schools, one in a mid-sized city, and the other in a rural-remote town. We asked about participation in informal science activities (e.g. visiting zoos or museums, or watching shows about science) and if youth had participated in science-focused clubs in the last 12 months (e.g. after-school science clubs, 4-H, scouts). Rural youth reported lower rates of participation in after-school science clubs and a greater desire to participate in after-school science programming than urban youth. Latino/a youth tend to have fewer informal science experiences than non- Latino/a youth, particularly in urban areas. There were few differences in informal science experiences between boys and girls, but in urban areas, girls report more science experiences than boys. Reported science experiences are overall higher in urban areas, yet youth with fewer resources (i.e. books in the home) have fewer informal science experiences overall. This study sheds new light on how socioeconomic status, gender, ethnicity, and geography interact with one another to shape youth science exposure and interest.