An Examination of Age, Race, and Sex as Predictors of Success in the First Programming Course


Statistics and Analytical Sciences

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2003


The goal of this study was to examine correlations among age, race and sex as predictors of success in a first programming course, particularly for computer science and information systems majors. In addition to age, race, and sex, other possible explanatory variables considered included SAT and declared major. This research stems from concern about the declining proportion of women and minorities in the information technology (II) workforce. Dominant portals to a professional career in IT include a baccalaureate degree in either computer science and information systems. Thus, another concern motivating this research is that the majority of the data suggesting this decline is based solely on computer science (CS), neglecting information systems (IS) graduates. This paper reports results from a study of success rates in the first programming course because it is often the first IT course interested students encounter. Considered a necessary component in standard curriculum guidelines, the first programming course often functions as a gateway to an IT career, and certainly may influence self-perceptions and attitudes about IT as a career. Statistical analysis of the data indicates that the proportion ofwomen is higher in IS than CS, and that CS majors have a higherprobability ofpassing the first programming course than IS majors. The results also show that neither sex nor age is a good predictor of success in the first programming class.