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Race/ethnicity, gender, and the Intel Westinghouse Science Award: a 16-year descriptive analysis


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The model minority stereotype of Asian Americans suggests that they are overrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. This article considers 16 years of Intel Westinghouse Science Award finalists (n = 640) data procured online. The data are analyzed to determine whether there are racial/ethnic or gender patterns among the finalists. Social Network Theory informs data analysis and interpretation of results. Findings suggest that homophily, the tendency for people/institutions to interact with similar others, contributes to the demographic patterns of the Intel Westinghouse finalists. Contrary to the expectation that White males from private boarding schools are the most likely to be Intel Westinghouse Science Award finalists, the data indicate that Asian American males who attend public schools are significantly more likely to be finalists.
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SN Soc Sci (2021) 1:10
Race/ethnicity, gender, andtheIntel Westinghouse Science
Award: a16‑year descriptive analysis
NicholasD.Hartlep1 · KevinWells2 · DaisyBall3
Received: 25 May 2020 / Accepted: 7 October 2020
© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020
The model minority stereotype of Asian Americans suggests that they are overrepre-
sented in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. This article consid-
ers 16years of Intel Westinghouse Science Award finalists (n = 640) data procured
online. The data are analyzed to determine whether there are racial/ethnic or gender
patterns among the finalists. Social Network Theory informs data analysis and inter-
pretation of results. Findings suggest that homophily, the tendency for people/insti-
tutions to interact with similar others, contributes to the demographic patterns of
the Intel Westinghouse finalists. Contrary to the expectation that White males from
private boarding schools are the most likely to be Intel Westinghouse Science Award
finalists, the data indicate that Asian American males who attend public schools are
significantly more likely to be finalists.
Keywords Homophily· Intel Westinghouse Science Award· Meritocracy· Social
Network Theory· Inequality· Sexism· STEM
A central belief within the “model minority” stereotype discourse is that Asian
Americans are smart and become scientists, engineers, and medical doctors (Hartlep
2013). The present study interrogates this characterization through analysis of
racial/ethnic and gender data on the Intel Westinghouse Science Awards (commonly
referred to as the “Westinghouse Prize”), specifically the occurrence of Asian Amer-
ican finalists for this prestigious award. As Yu and Ng (2004) note: “The popular
image of Asian Americans today is favorable. For example, the success of Asian
* Nicholas D. Hartlep
1 Berea College, Berea, USA
2 University ofSouthern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, USA
3 Roanoke College, Salem, USA
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Americans in academic studies is already well known, as they annually win rec-
ognition at the high school level as National Merit scholars or Intel Science Talent
Search (STS) Competition [formerly Westinghouse Science and Technology Com-
petition] winners” (p. 35).
By comparing race/ethnicity, gender, and other factors, such as type of high
school a finalist for the Westinghouse Prize attended, conclusions can be made as to
whether or not Asian Americans are overrepresented as finalists compared to mem-
bers of other races/ethnicities, and whether or not males are overrepresented as final-
ists compared to females. Conclusions can also be made as to whether private/board-
ing schools are more prone to produce finalists compared to public magnet schools.
What istheIntel Westinghouse Science Award?
Created in 1942 by Science Service, one of the most respected non-profit American
organizations advancing the cause of science, as a means for encouraging talented
high school students to pursue a career in science, math, engineering, and/or medi-
cine, the Westinghouse Prize (today known as the Regeneron Science Talent Search)
has become an institution.
America’s oldest and most highly regarded pre-college science competition, this
talent search provides an arena and an incentive for US high school seniors to com-
plete an original research project and have it recognized by a national jury of pres-
tigious professional scientists, mathematicians, and engineers. For its first 57years,
it was known as the Westinghouse Science Talent Search. From 1998 to 2016, it
became known as the Intel Science Talent Search (Intel STS) when Intel Corpo-
ration became its new sponsor. In 2016, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals became the
newest sponsor to carry on the Science Talent Search. Regardless of nomenclature,
administration, and/or period of time in history, this pre-college science competition
has been a highly prestigious award. Is it a predictor for later success in college and
post-college (career)? Possibly.
The Society for Science & the Public’s website indicates that 13 Nobel Prize win-
ners were previously finalists for or winners of the Westinghouse Science Award.
Moreover, of finalists or winners of the Westinghouse Science Award, two have
received the Fields Medal, 11 have received the National Medal of Science, 2 have
received the Enrico Fermi Award, 18 have received the MacArthur Genius Award, 3
have received the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award, 5 have received the
Breakthrough Prize, 11 have been inducted into the National Academy of Engineer-
ing, and 43 have been inducted into the National Academy of Sciences.1
The list of accomplished individuals above raises the question: What sort of
material benefit does winning or being a finalist in the Intel Westinghouse Science
Award offer an individual? Marsa (1993) asks in the title of her story, “Do high
school science competitions predict success?” a question to which she essentially
1 https ://www.socie tyfor scien ty-alumn i-honor s/#macar thur.
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answers, “No.” And, in Subotnik and Steiner’s (1994) study, they share the thoughts
of an individual who won the Westinghouse Science Award:
When I got to college my intention was to major in biology or chemistry.
When I was doing the Westinghouse project, I really enjoyed the whole pro-
cess of doing scientific research, so that was where I was focused. When I got
to college and went to some of the required science classes, like intro to bio
and chem, I realized I was going to be in for three years of memorizing scien-
tific facts. At that point I said to myself, ‘I’m going to be miserable if this is
what I do for the next three years’ (pp. 62–63).
While the question of whether or not success in the Westinghouse Science Award
predicts future college and professional success is outside of the scope of this study,
the current authors believe, if anything, being a finalist in the Intel Westinghouse
Science Awards is a pre-college signal that may provide a competitive edge on
undergraduate and graduate school applications. This assumption is supported by
Subotnik and Steiner’s (1994) research. The Westinghouse accolade signals promise
and brings with it great prestige, illustrated by how selective the award is (only 40
finalists annually). And, as Marsa (1993) characterizes it,
Clearly, being a Westinghouse finalist carries an inestimable cachet. And
growing research evidence—including studies done by Harriet Zuckerman, a
professor of sociology at Columbia University, and Benjamin S. Bloom, an
education specialist now retired from the University of Chicago—suggests that
the participation of high school students in such extracurricular competitions
as the Westinghouse Science Talent Search (STS); the International Science
and Engineering Fair (ISEF), the “World Series” of science, now in its 44th
year; or the Math Olympiad, which began in 1972, are indicators of charac-
teristics like originality, persistence, and dedication, which are important for
success in a scientific career. (para. 4).
The public imagination ofAsian American high schoolers
In a New York Times story titled “Why Asians are Going to the Head of the
Class,” Butterfield (1986) writes the following: “Last spring Asian-Americans
were awarded the top five prizes in the Westinghouse Talent Search, the most
prominent science award open to American high school students. Asian-Ameri-
cans typically score around 520 out of a possible 800 on the math section of the
college-admissions Scholastic Aptitude Test, about 30 points higher than whites”
(p. 18). Butterfield’s story is what Hartlep (2013) refers to as “classical” model
minority writing because it perpetuates the idea of a precocial Asian American
high school student. While it may have been true, at the time, that Asian Ameri-
can high schoolers, in the aggregate, scored 30 points higher than their White
peers, it is not true that Asian Americans perform statistically significantly higher
on these high-stakes tests. This is because their supposed excellence is bimo-
dally distributed (see Hartlep and Porfilio 2015). Some students score high. Some
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students score low. The outcome of such inaccurate print media reporting is that
it feeds the narrative that Asian American high schoolers are excelling.
The television broadcasting news media also feeds this perception. Recently,
in a CNN Special program titled “Scheme and Scandal,” attention was drawn to
Stuyvesant High School in New York. Reporter Fareed Zakaria noted that while
admission to the public magnet school was extremely competitive, many of the
school’s graduates go on to Ivy League colleges and universities. The program
also stated that of the students accepted to Stuyvesant, many of them are Asian
American, thus reinforcing in the public imagination the picture of precocious
Asian American students who go on to Ivy League schools.
In addition to the print and television media, colleges and universities them-
selves perpetuate this stereotype. Figure1 is an advertisement that Hofstra Uni-
versity, based in New York, ran in one of its publications during the 1980s, the
same decade that Butterfield’s (1986) reporting occurred. The ubiquity of the
stereotype of Asian Americans as academic superstars forces us to confront the
question: Was there any accuracy to this 1980s characterization? The current
Fig. 1 Hofstra University Advertisement, circa 1980s. Source Teresa Mok. Permission granted by Hof-
stra University, Creative Services, University Relations
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article examines this question empirically through analysis of the characteristics
of finalists in a prestigious pre-college science competition.
Theoretical framework
US News & World Report is a publication that gained sizeable traction when it began
publishing “yearly rankings” in 1983 (see O’Neil 2016a, b). Specifically, this news
publication is famous in higher education circles for its rankings of colleges and uni-
versities. Surprisingly (or maybe not), it has also begun ranking high schools in the
United States. The US News & World Report symbols are very well known. O’Neil
(2016b), author of Weapons of Math Destruction, alludes to the “Thomas Theorem”
(Thomas and Thomas 1928) in her discussion of US News & World Report rankings:
US News’s first data-driven ranking came out in 1988, and the results seemed
sensible. However, as the rankings grew into a national standard, a vicious
feedback loop materialized. The trouble was that the rankings were self-rein-
forcing. If a college fared badly in US News, its reputation would suffer, and
conditions would deteriorate. Top students would avoid it, as would top profes-
sors. Alumni would howl and cut back on contributions. The ranking would
tumble further. The ranking, in short, was destiny. (p. 53, italics added)
This study draws on Social Network Theory, which argues that homophily exists
when it comes to academic success and achievement in secondary and post-sec-
ondary formal education. Homophily, or “love for the same,” is a concept akin to
the common phrase “birds of a feather flock together” (McPherson etal. 2001).
According to Social Network Theory, social networks are homophilous and self-
reinforcing. As noted by O’Neil (2016b), over time, the US News & World Report
rankings became self-reinforcing. Why? Students whose parents/family have experi-
ence with the mechanics of elite formal education in the United States understand
the impact of US News & World Report rankings. These parents understand that
the high school their child attends impacts the college or university that they will
attend. They also understand that the preschool and elementary school that their
child attends also plays a pivotal role in the education that child will have access to
later in life. As high schools (secondary educational institutions) are increasingly
ranked, just like colleges and universities (post-secondary educational institutions),
it behooves us to ask some basic questions. Why rank high schools? Who do these
rankings serve? Who benefits from this? While this last question is beyond the scope
of the present study, it is a question that we asked ourselves as we were completing
this manuscript.
How are secondary educational institutions modeling their behavior on that of
post-secondary ones? The short answer is in their “branding.” For instance, Balti-
more Polytechnic Institute is a public magnet high school and has been the school
of several Westinghouse finalists and awardees. We find it interesting that this high
school’s name resembles “Polytechnic” Institutions such as Virginia Polytechnic
Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) or Florida Polytechnic University.
Markovits (2019), in his book Meritocracy: How America’s Foundational Myth
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Feeds Inequality, Dismantles the Middle Class, and Devours the Elite points out
The top twenty private high schools in the country, as ranked by Forbes, on
average send 30 percent of their graduates to the Ivy League, Stanford, and
MIT alone. These [high] schools send perhaps two-thirds of their graduates to
colleges and universities ranked in the top twenty-five in their categories by
US News & World Report. The extraordinary investments that children from
rich families receive beginning at birth therefore do not end at high school
graduation. Instead, the meritocratic inheritance prepares and qualifies rich
high school graduates to receive yet more exceptional education and training,
in college and beyond. In this way, childhood extends its reach directly and
deep into adult life. (p. 133).
Stuyvesant High School is ranked #25 in the US News & World Report rankings.
Schools are ranked on their performance on state-required tests, graduation rates,
and how well they prepare students for college. In the state of New York, Stuyvesant
High School is ranked #2.
Consider Choate Rosemary Hall, a top-rated, private boarding school in Walling-
ford, Connecticut, that boasts several Westinghouse finalists. It has 850 students in
grades 9–12 with a student–teacher ratio of 4 to 1. The annual tuition for Rosemary
Hall is a whopping $59,110 for the highest grade offered. The school states that after
graduation, 100% of students go on to attend a 4-year college. Should this be a sur-
prise? Hardly. The wealthy pay $59,110 for tuition because of the promise of a leg
up it will give their child in the future.
Consider Phillips Exeter Academy, another top-rated, private boarding school
whose students have received the Westinghouse Award. Exeter Academy, located in
Exeter, New Hampshire, has 1,085 students in grades 9–12 with a student–teacher
ratio of 5 to 1. Tuition is $49,880 annually for the highest grade offered, and not
surprisingly, 100% of students who graduate from Exeter go on to attend a 4-year
college. It follows that parents who can afford this level of tuition most likely hail
from families whose members have experienced higher education at an elite level.
As Markovits (2019) points out, the wealthy invest heavily in elite education,
which in turn advantages their children. Over time, at a systemic level, elite edu-
cation becomes weaponized and one cause for extreme disparities in income and
other social measures. At the risk of absurdity (and case in point) are parents willing
to pay $38,200 annually for preschool for their 3-year-old. Horace Mann School in
Bronx, New York, charges just that.2
When researching high schools for the current project, our attention was piqued
when we looked at General William J. Palmer High School, commonly referred to as
Palmer High School (PHS), a public school in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Dubbed
the “flagship” high school of the state’s School District 11, Palmer has the oldest
International Baccalaureate (IB) program in the geographic area. This high school
2 https ://www.horac emann .org/admis sions /tuiti on-finan cial-aid.
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mimics higher education through its self-identification as “flagship”; the school is
not alone in higher education mimicry.
In addition to terminology used by high schools that serves to mimic that of uni-
versities and the higher education system, some high schools mimic higher educa-
tion via their school logos. For instance, Notre Dame College Prep’s (Niles, Illi-
nois) logo looks just like that of Notre Dame University. A number of high schools
have adopted logos that are nearly (if not) identical to those of colleges/universities:
Texas Tech,3 as well as the University of Kentucky, Butler University, University
of Texas, and Purdue University.4 The New York Times published a story featuring
colleges and universities who were not happy that high schools were attempting to
resemble them (see Himmelsbach 2010). However, this acrimony is not across the
board, as even some very prestigious universities are eager for their brand to trickle
down to the pre-college level. For instance, Georgetown Preparatory School is a
feeder to Georgetown University and other elite colleges/universities, and George
Washington University Online High School (GWUOHS) is associated with George
Washington University.5 Tuition at GWUOHS is a modest $12,000 annually. The
GWUOHS website posts information on where its graduates go to attend university
(see Fig.2).
Yet another parallel to elite colleges and universities is that some of the high
schools researched for the current project have massive endowments (Fabrikant
2008). The Westminster Schools in Georgia, a private school, has an endowment of
$274 million USD.6 According to a New York Times article “Endowing an Elite Prep
School,” the aforementioned Phillips Exeter Academy’s endowment last year sur-
passed $1 billion, making it one of the richest educational institutions in the United
States—richer than many universities.7 A large endowment is a bragging right that
some schools possess, which can be leveraged to recruit more students who will
go on to make the high school proud, and will ideally donate back to the school
when they graduate. Hence, the process of students being admitted to, attending, and
Fig. 2 Student and graduate success
3 https ://www.denve rpost .com/2016/11/07/color ado-high-schoo ls-targe ted-by-unive rsiti es-simil ar-logos /.
4 https :// nt/news/Logo-Looph oles-High-schoo ls-utili zing-profe ssion al-and-colle ge-
logos -48273 1991.html.
5 https ://www.gwuoh /gradu ate-succe ss.
6 https ://en.wikip inste r_Schoo ls.
7 https ://www.nytim show/2008/01/22/busin ess/20080 126_PREP_Slide show_index
.html?actio n=click &conte ntCol lecti on=Busin ess%20Day &modul e=Relat edCov erage &regio n=EndOf
Artic le&pgtyp e=artic le. For context, Berea College, which has an endowment of $1.6 Billion USD.
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graduating from elite high schools, and then matriculating into elite higher educa-
tion institutions, is a predictable and self-reinforcing cycle. The system reproduces
itself and its outcomes.
What isSocial Network Theory?
Broadly, Social Network Theory is the study of networks, their contents, and their
patterns of influence. Stated differently, Social Network Theory is interested in con-
nections within certain populations. Take higher education spaces: Hartlep et al.
(2017) examined the demographics of the American Educational Research Associa-
tion (AERA) Fellows (n = 644) and explored whether or not the cohorts of AERA
Fellows are becoming more diverse in racial/ethnic and gender terms compared to
the inaugural year of Fellows in 2008. The authors of the study looked at the net-
work (population) of AERA Fellows and examined it for sameness using the central
component of Social Network Theory, homophily, that holds that “birds of a feather
flock together” (McPherson etal. 2001). Homophily means love of the same: homo-
meaning “same”, and phili- meaning “love.” Similar to Hartlep etal.’s (2017) exam-
ination of the presence of homophily in AERA Fellows, we ask: Are patterns of
homophily and sameness present in the finalists and winners of the “Westinghouse
Prize”? That is, are there detectable patterns of sameness among high schoolers who
are finalists for this award program?
The present study examined publicly available data from the webpage https ://www.
socie tyfor scien Specifically, the Society for Science webpage includes
annual information on the finalists and winners of their science competition, the
same competition that we refer to as the “Westinghouse Prize.” Data were analyzed
from 2004 through 2019. The years selected were something of a convenience sam-
ple; 2004 was the first year the Society for Science website included PDF booklets
of that year’s finalists. These booklets included biographies and photographs of the
high school students, which provided data for analysis:
Student’s first and last name
Student’s high school
Student’s state
Information contained in the PDF booklets, including headshot photo, student’s first
and last name, and high school attended, was used to determine the following:
Student gender and race/ethnicity
Type of high school (private, public, public magnet, independent, home school,
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Study population
Sixteen (16) years of data were analyzed (2004–2019). Each year there were 40 stu-
dent finalists for the Westinghouse Prize, resulting in n = 640 individuals. Table 1
below contains descriptive information about the study population. Unfortunately,
2007 and 2009 had missing data because the Society’s webpage8 did not provide
finalist PDFs for those years; therefore, the present study’s sample is below the
n = 640. However, photos of some of the finalists were obtained for 2007 and 2009,
which was used to supplement data on race/ethnicity and gender of finalists. In cases
where photos could not be obtained, race/ethnicity data were labeled “missing,” and
a gender was assigned for names like Matthew (male) or Jennifer (female); when
unknown, gender data were labeled “missing.” We relied on software (such as Nam-
Sor) to help us identify the likely race/ethnicity of a given name, for example Par-
thasarathy was assigned as a “South Asian (Indian)” surname. For the sake of inter-
rater reliability, we recruited a South Asian (Indian) colleague to review our work,
given that a significant number of individuals in our sample were labeled “South
In the next section of the paper, we will address the theoretical framework that
informed our approach to data analysis.
Table 1 Gender and race/
ethnicity by year
AOR is all other known races
Year F M White Asian AOR
2004 18 22 21 16 1
2005 15 25 21 17 1
2006 17 23 26 12 0
2007 17 14 6 7 0
2008 14 26 20 18 0
2009 17 22 12 19 0
2010 17 23 17 21 2
2011 16 24 13 27 0
2012 16 24 11 26 0
2013 20 21 17 21 0
2014 14 25 11 27 0
2015 19 21 13 26 0
2016 21 19 10 29 1
2017 15 25 12 27 0
2018 15 25 9 29 0
2019 18 22 11 27 0
8 https ://www.socie tyfor scien nt/press -room/intel -sts-2009-winne rs.
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Research questions
Using Social Network Theory to interpret both our methodological and analytic
approach, we set forth the following research questions:
RQ1 Is the Intel Westinghouse Award equally distributed among male and female
high schoolers?
H1 We hypothesize that Intel Westinghouse Award finalists will be significantly
more likely to be male than female high school students. Research has found that
males are more likely to receive academic awards (see Ma and Uzzi 2018; Ma etal.
2019). Because males are overrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering,
and Mathematics (STEM) (see Hill etal. 2010; Wang and Degol 2016), it is likely
that Intel Westinghouse Award finalists are significantly more likely to be male than
H1A To assess this hypothesis, we will use Pearson’s chi-squared test for count data.
This test will determine how likely the differences in group proportions arose by
chance. For the years 2004 to 2019, we found that there was a statistically signifi-
cant difference (χ2 (1) = 13.44 p < .001, Cramer’s V = .15) between the number of
male award finalists (n = 361, 57.3%) and female award finalists (n = 269, 42.7%).
Furthermore, the difference between male and female finalists has remained rela-
tively consistent since 2004 (see Fig.3). 2016 is the sole year when there were more
female than male finalists, excluding 2007 where missing gender information pre-
vents an accurate appraisal. Our hypothesis was correct. There were significantly
more male than female Westinghouse Award finalists.
Fig. 3 Number of award winners by known gender, 2004–2019
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RQ2 Is the Intel Westinghouse Award equally given among the racial/ethnic groups?
H2 Intel Westinghouse Award finalists will be significantly more likely to be White
than any other race/ethnicity. Based on the research by Terzian and Rury (2014),
which found that Westinghouse Science Talent Search Award recipients from 1942
to 1958 were typically White, affluent, and male, we hypothesize that this histori-
cal pattern will be evident in the 2004–2019 data we analyze: White students will
be more likely to be Intel Westinghouse Award finalists than students of other races
because they encompass race privilege.
H2A As in our previous hypothesis, Pearson’s chi-squared test for count data was
used. Because our hypothesis stated that White people would be more likely than
any other race to be a Westinghouse Award finalist, we tested equal proportions
between White people and all other races. Our hypothesis was disconfirmed. Rather
than White people predominating as recipients of the Award, Asian people were the
most likely to be award finalists. As with gender, we found that there was a statisti-
cally significant difference (χ2 (1) = 26.329 p < .001, Cramer’s V = .21) between the
number of White award finalists (n = 230, 39.4%) and award finalists of all other
races (n = 345, 60.6%). Unlike gender differences, which have remained relatively
stable from 2004 to 2019, the number of White award finalists has shown a fairly
steady decrease since 2004 (see Fig. 4). Again, as with gender, interpretation of
2007 is complicated by missing data.
Additional perspective on the racial composition of the Westinghouse Award
finalists can be realized by a racial breakdown of high school aged students (US
Census Bureau 2019) in Table2. At most, Asian students make up 5.5% of high
Fig. 4 Number of Asian vs Non-Asian award finalists, 2004–2019
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school aged students in 2017 yet comprise 69.2% of Westinghouse Award finalists
that same year.
RQ3 Will the proportion of males be the same between Asian and non-Asian Intel
Westinghouse finalists?
H3 We hypothesize that there will be no difference in the proportion of males to
females among Asian and non-Asian Intel Westinghouse finalists.
H3A As with previous hypotheses, we used Pearson’s chi-squared test for count data
to assess this hypothesis. We compared the proportion of males to females between
Asian and non-Asian award finalists and found that there was no statistically sig-
nificant difference (χ2 (1) = 1.15 p = .283, Cramer’s V = .06) between the proportion
of male to female Asian award finalists (n = 196, p = .563) and male to female non-
Asian award finalists (n = 139, p = .591). Our hypothesis was confirmed.
RQ4 Are there differences among Intel Westinghouse Award recipients in terms of
the type (e.g., private, magnet, independent, residential, boarding, public) of high
school that they attend?
H4 We hypothesize that Intel Westinghouse Award finalists will be significantly
more likely to attend private, magnet, independent, residential, and/or boarding
schools than public schools.
Table 2 High school demographics by year, 2004–2018
AOR is all other races
Year White (%) Black (%) Asian (%) Hispanic (%) AOR (%) Total (%)
2004 61.1 15.8 3.9 16.6 2.5 100
2005 61.4 15.7 3.7 16.9 2.3 100
2006 59.6 16.3 3.9 17.4 2.8 100
2007 59.5 16.1 3.7 17.9 2.8 100
2008 58.5 15.8 3.7 19.1 2.9 100
2009 58.2 16.3 3.5 19.1 2.8 100
2010 57.5 16.0 3.5 20.2 2.8 100
2011 56.8 15.9 4.1 20.5 2.7 100
2012 53.9 15.7 5.0 22.1 3.3 100
2013 53.4 16.3 4.9 22.5 2.9 100
2014 54.1 15.5 5.0 22.1 3.3 100
2015 54.0 15.2 4.8 22.8 3.2 100
2016 52.6 15.9 5.0 23.7 2.8 100
2017 52.9 14.8 5.5 23.4 3.4 100
2018 51.7 14.7 5.3 24.4 3.9 100
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H4A An initial look at the results shows that 60% of students attended public
schools. To compare public schools to all other schools we used Pearson’s chi-
squared test for count data to examine the significance of this difference. Among
the 2004–2019 Intel Westinghouse Award recipients, we found that the recipients
were significantly more likely (χ2 (1) = 25.6, p < .001, Cramer’s V = .20) to attend
a public high school (n = 384, 60.0%) than all other types of schools combined
(n = 256, 40.0%). Table 3 details the breakdown by school type. If we look at the
type of schools award recipients have come from longitudinally (see Fig.5), we can
Table 3 School type
n = 640
School type Count Proportion
Boarding school 25 0.039
Home school 5 0.008
Independent 37 0.058
Private 69 0.108
Public 384 0.600
Public (magnet) 96 0.150
Public charter 2 0.003
Residential 22 0.034
Fig. 5 School type by year, 2004–2019
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see that public schools have consistently been the most attended in the 2004–2019
period. Only in 2017 were less than half of the award finalists public school attend-
ees (n = 18). To put this into perspective, according to Wang etal. (2019), in 2016,
85.9% of students were enrolled in traditional public schools. Proportionally, pub-
lic school representation is lower than the national average, but public school stu-
dents were more likely than other students to be Westinghouse Award finalists. Our
hypothesis was disconfirmed.
RQ5 Are there states that produce disproportionately more (or less) Intel Westing-
house Award finalists?
H5 We hypothesize that Intel Westinghouse Award finalists will be disproportion-
ately concentrated in coastal states (e.g., CA, NY, MA, OR, and ME). Our ration-
ale is based on Quindlen’s (1987) New York Times Magazine story “The Drive to
Excel,” which shadows the life and educational success of David Kuo, a 16- year
old Bronx High School of Science student who, at the time the story was published,
“had been selected one of the top 40 young scientists in America” (Quindlen 1987,
p. 32). The press makes it appear that these states, on the West Coast and the East
Coast including New England, have exceptional K–12 schooling.
H5A Our hypothesis was partially confirmed. There were a total of 44 states plus
the District of Columbia that had at least one Intel Westinghouse Award finalist.
The state with the largest number of finalists was New York (n = 159). California
(n = 107), Maryland (n = 40), Texas (n = 31), and New Jersey (n = 27) round out the
top five. Table4 details the number of finalists for the top 10 states.
RQ6 Are there certain high schools that are notable in their production of Intel
Westinghouse Award finalists?
Table 4 Finalists by state
n = 640
State Finalists
New York 159
California 107
Maryland 40
Texas 31
New Jersey 27
Massachusetts 23
Virginia 20
Pennsylvania 20
Oregon 20
Florida 19
All other 174
SN Soc Sci (2021) 1:10 Page 15 of 18 10
H6 We hypothesize that Bronx High School of Science, Stuyvesant High School,
Gould Academy, and Phillips Exeter Academy will produce disproportionately
more Intel Westinghouse Award finalists relative to other high schools. Our ration-
ale for this hypothesis is that the Intel Westinghouse Award is a science award, so
schools whose focus is science are likely to produce high-quality high school sci-
entists. Schools who have a history of winning the award will have an advantage,
so it follows that “success stories” like the one Quindlen (1987) wrote about in the
1980s will continue into the 2000s and 2010s. Additionally, Stuyvesant High School
is also overrepresented by Asian Americans. According to Wong (2019), “Roughly
three in four students currently enrolled at Stuyvesant High School identify as Asian
American” (para. 5). If Asian Americans are disproportionately winning the Intel
Westinghouse Award, it would be likely that public science magnet schools would
produce a large number of recipients. Interrelated to H4, Bronx and Stuyvesant are
high schools in the state of New York. States like Massachusetts and Maine have
notoriety for expensive private boarding schools, such as Gould Academy and Phil-
lips Exeter Academy.
H6A Our hypothesis was disconfirmed. Of the 639 finalists we have high school
data on, 10 schools produced 135 of those finalists. The top school was Montgomery
Blair High School (Silver Spring, Maryland), which produced 28 finalists. This is
followed by The Harker School (San Jose, California) with 18 and Thomas Jefferson
High School for Science & Technology (Alexandria, Virginia) with 13. The top 10
schools with the most Intel Westinghouse recipients are shown in Table5.
RQ7 Do Intel Westinghouse Award finalists live in certain cities?
H7 Intel Westinghouse Award finalists will live in similar cities. Some cities, within
the states from which we expect the most recipients, will produce multiple award
Table 5 Top 10 schools and type
School Finalists Type State
Montgomery Blair HS 28 Public (Magnet) MD
The Harker School 18 Independent CA
Thomas Jefferson HS for Science & Technology 13 Public (Magnet) VA
Stuyvesant HS 12 Public (Magnet) NY
Ward Melville HS 11 Public NY
Jericho Senior HS 11 Public NY
Texas Academy of Math & Science 9 Residential TX
Byram Hills HS 9 Public NY
Oregon Episcopal 8 Boarding School OR
Lynbrook HS 8 Public CA
Illinois Mathematics & Science Academy 8 Residential IL
SN Soc Sci (2021) 1:10
10 Page 16 of 18
finalists. In other words, there will be homophily in terms of the cities where the
finalists live.
H7A The top 10 cities represented 117 of the 640 Intel Westinghouse finalists from
2004 to 2019. New York City, New York and San Jose, California were home to 16
finalists each, followed by Silver Spring, Maryland, with 15 finalists. The top 10
most represented cities are shown in Table6.
Conclusion andfuture research
We sought to examine 16years of data on Intel Westinghouse Science Award final-
ists. Our hypothesis that White males would be overrepresented was not supported
by the data. Instead, Asian Americans tend to be statistically overrepresented as
Intel Westinghouse Award finalists. The majority of finalists attend public (magnet)
schools, sharply contrasting with the notion that the bulk of Westinghouse Prize
finalists attend expensive boarding schools. We found that there was a difference
in the proportion of males to females among Asian and non-Asian Americans, and
we also found differences when race was not considered (males being more likely
than females to be finalists). This finding merits further research. Future research
should look at gender differences intra-racially. This would yield important insights,
as it may reveal that gender disparities are more likely to occur within certain racial
groups. The implications of such a finding would be interesting.
Another possible direction for future research would be to further interrogate
the presence of homophily, thereby extending application of Social Network The-
ory, among Westinghouse Prize finalists. For example, one could take a qualitative
approach in which the researchers conduct structured interviews with former final-
ists to learn more about why they participated in the contest. Did their friends com-
pete in the contest? Did their high schools support it? Was it a “normal” thing to do
where they are from? Did they seek it out on their own, or did some authority figure
(counselor, parent, teacher) suggest it to them?
Table 6 Top 10 cities with most
Intel Westinghouse recipients
(household median income)
City Finalists State
New York City ($63,799) 16 NY
San Jose ($113,036) 16 CA
Silver Spring ($76,608) 15 MD
Portland ($73,097) 13 OR
Cupertino ($134,872) 11 CA
Jericho ($156,029) 11 NY
Plano ($79,234) 11 TX
East Setauket ($141,863) 8 NY
Lexington ($162,083) 8 MA
Rockville ($100,436) 8 MD
SN Soc Sci (2021) 1:10 Page 17 of 18 10
Data availability The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding
author upon reasonable request.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conict of interest The authors of this article certify that they have no affiliations with or involvement in
any organization or entity with any financial interest (such as honoraria; educational grants; participation
in speakers’ bureaus; membership, employment, consultancies, stock ownership, or other equity inter-
est; and expert testimony or patent-licensing arrangements), or non-financial interest (such as personal or
professional relationships, affiliations, knowledge, or beliefs) in the subject matter or materials discussed
in this manuscript.
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Full-text available
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Overview This article examines the Westinghouse Science Talent Search over the first sixteen years of its operation. A national contest involving thousands of high school seniors annually, it reflected a growing national concern with developing scientific manpower in the midst of global conflict, the Cold War, and a growing military–industrial complex. Background/Context While there have been recent studies on the historical development of science education, particularly in the mid-twentieth century and immediate postwar era, little attention has been devoted to such extracurricular activities as science fairs and academic contests. This study addresses this gap by examining a prominent national talent search competition, while assessing its place in the development of a meritocratic ethos in science. Focus of Study The study describes the genesis of the Science Talent Search, its approach to identifying winners, and the inequitable impact of this approach. Although the competition's organizers emphasized its meritocratic quality, our analysis demonstrates that the selection process that it employed systematically discriminated against certain groups of students. Research Design The study was conducted by historical research in primary and secondary sources, particularly those associated with the Science Talent Search in the first two decades of its existence. Statistical data also were compiled from Science Talent Search records and combined with data from the U.S. Office of Education and the Census Bureau to conduct an analysis of factors contributing to success in the contest. Conclusions/Recommendations Most Science Talent Search winners over the period in question were White males from large urban schools with greater financial resources. Women and African American students were underrepresented, as were students from rural areas and schools with relatively few resources. Ultimately, this national competition reflected social and cultural forces that shaped the science professions in a crucial period of their growth, and may have represented a lost opportunity to make scientific training more truly meritocratic at a formative time in its development.
Beginning in mid‐1990, 98 Westinghouse Science Talent Search winners from the 1983 cohort were contacted for a third wave of interviews. Forty‐nine of the 60 male participants and 25 of the 38 female participants, now approximately 26 years old, could still be categorized as scientists or mathematicians because of their study or employment in scientific research or applied fields. The questions posed in the interviews explored the role of mentors in the development of their professional and educational careers, reasons for retention or attrition in science, and the effects of being labeled as a Westinghouse Science Talent Search winner.
Similarity breeds connection. This principle - the homophily principle - structures network ties of every type, including marriage, friendship, work, advice, support, information transfer, exchange, comembership, and other types of relationship. The result is that people's personal networks are homogeneous with regard to many sociodemographic, behavioral, and intrapersonal characteristics. Homophily limits people's social worlds in a way that has powerful implications for the information they receive, the attitudes they form, and the interactions they experience. Homophily in race and ethnicity creates the strongest divides in our personal environments, with age, religion, education, occupation, and gender following in roughly that order. Geographic propinquity, families, organizations, and isomorphic positions in social systems all create contexts in which homophilous relations form. Ties between nonsimilar individuals also dissolve at a higher rate, which sets the stage for the formation of niches (localized positions) within social space. We argue for more research on: (a) the basic ecological processes that link organizations, associations, cultural communities, social movements, and many other social forms; (b) the impact of multiplex ties on the patterns of homophily; and (c) the dynamics of network change over time through which networks and other social entities co-evolve.