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Teachers and the Gender Gaps in Student Achievement

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  • Thomas S. Dee

Abstract

In the United States, girls outperform boys in measures of reading achievement while generally underperforming in science and mathematics. One major class of explanations for these gaps involves the gender-based interactions between students and teachers (e.g., role-model and Pygmalion effects). However, the evidence on whether these interactions actually matter is limited and contradictory. In this study, I present new empirical evidence on whether assignment to a same-gender teacher influences student achievement, teacher perceptions of student performance, and student engagement. This study's identification strategy exploits a unique "matched pairs" feature of a major longitudinal survey. Within-student comparisons based on these data indicate that assignment to a same-gender teacher significantly improves the achievement of both girls and boys as well as teacher perceptions of student performance and student engagement with the teacher's subject. For example, assignment to a female science teacher increases the likelihood that a girl views science as useful for her future. However, because the middle-school teachers in most academic subjects are female, these results also suggest that the gender dynamics between teachers and students at this level amplify boys' large underperformance in reading while attenuating the more modest underperformance of girls in math and science.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11660.

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Date of creation: Oct 2005
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Publication status: published as Dee, Thomas S. “Teachers and the Gender Gaps in Student Achievement.” Journal of Human Resources 42, 3 (Summer 2007): 528-554.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11660

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  1. Lavy, Victor, 2008. "Do gender stereotypes reduce girls' or boys' human capital outcomes? Evidence from a natural experiment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(10-11), pages 2083-2105, October.
  2. Eric A. Hanushek & John F. Kain & Daniel M. O'Brien & Steven G. Rivkin, 2005. "The Market for Teacher Quality," NBER Working Papers 11154, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Eric P. Bettinger & Bridget Terry Long, 2005. "Do Faculty Serve as Role Models? The Impact of Instructor Gender on Female Students," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 152-157, May.
  4. Robst, John & Keil, Jack & Russo, Dean, 1998. "The effect of gender composition of faculty on student retention," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 17(4), pages 429-439, October.
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