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The Gender Gap in Mathematics: Evidence from Low- and Middle-Income Countries

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  • Prashant Bharadwaj
  • Giacomo De Giorgi
  • David Hansen
  • Christopher Neilson

Abstract

We establish the presence of a gender gap in mathematics across many low- and middle-income countries using detailed, comparable test score data. Examining micro level data on school performance linked to household demographics we note that first, the gender gap appears to increase with age. Indeed, the gap nearly doubles when comparing 4th grade and 8th grade test scores. Second, we test whether commonly proposed explanations such as parental background and investments, unobserved ability, and classroom environment (including teacher gender) explain a substantial portion of the gap. While none of these explanations help in substantially explaining the gender gap we observe, we show that boys and girls differ significantly in perceptions about their own ability in math, conditional on math test scores. Girls are much more likely to state that they dislike math, or find math difficult compared to boys. We highlight differences in self-assessed ability as areas for future research that might lead to a better understanding of the gender gap in math.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18464.

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Date of creation: Oct 2012
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18464

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  1. Goldin, Claudia & Kuziemko, Ilyana & Katz, Lawrence, 2006. "The Homecoming of American College Women: The Reversal of the College Gender Gap," Scholarly Articles 2962611, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  2. Roland G. Fryer & Steven D. Levitt, 2010. "An Empirical Analysis of the Gender Gap in Mathematics," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 210-40, April.
  3. Richard J. Murnane & John B. Willett & Yves Duhaldeborde & John H. Tyler, 2000. "How important are the cognitive skills of teenagers in predicting subsequent earnings?," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(4), pages 547-568.
  4. Alan Krueger & Orley Ashenfelter, 1992. "Estimates of the Economic Return to Schooling from a New Sample of Twins," NBER Working Papers 4143, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Altonji, Joseph G. & Blank, Rebecca M., 1999. "Race and gender in the labor market," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 48, pages 3143-3259 Elsevier.
  6. Thomas S. Dee, 2007. "Teachers and the Gender Gaps in Student Achievement," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 42(3).
  7. Scott E. Carrell & Marianne E. Page & James E. West, 2009. "Sex and Science: How Professor Gender Perpetuates the Gender Gap," NBER Working Papers 14959, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Prashant Bharadwaj & Katrine Vellesen L?ken & Christopher Neilson, 2013. "Early Life Health Interventions and Academic Achievement," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(5), pages 1862-91, August.
  9. Glenn Ellison & Ashley Swanson, 2009. "The Gender Gap in Secondary School Mathematics at High Achievement Levels: Evidence from the American Mathematics Competitions," NBER Working Papers 15238, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Murnane, Richard J & Willett, John B & Levy, Frank, 1995. "The Growing Importance of Cognitive Skills in Wage Determination," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 77(2), pages 251-66, May.
  11. Jeff Grogger & Eric Eide, 1995. "Changes in College Skills and the Rise in the College Wage Premium," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 30(2), pages 280-310.
  12. Uri Gneezy & Muriel Niederle & Aldo Rustichini, 2003. "Performance In Competitive Environments: Gender Differences," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(3), pages 1049-1074, August.
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Cited by:
  1. Karthik Muralidharan & Ketki Sheth, 2013. "Bridging Education Gender Gaps in Developing Countries: The Role of Female Teachers," NBER Working Papers 19341, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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