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The Gender Gap in Secondary School Mathematics at High Achievement Levels: Evidence from the American Mathematics Competitions

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  • Glenn Ellison
  • Ashley Swanson

Abstract

This paper uses a new data source, American Mathematics Competitions, to examine the gender gap among high school students at very high achievement levels. The data bring out several new facts. There is a large gender gap that widens dramatically at percentiles above those that can be examined using standard data sources. An analysis of unobserved heterogeneity indicates that there is only moderate variation in the gender gap across schools. The highest achieving girls in the U.S. are concentrated in a very small set of elite schools, suggesting that almost all girls with the ability to reach high math achievement levels are not doing so.

Suggested Citation

  • Glenn Ellison & Ashley Swanson, 2010. "The Gender Gap in Secondary School Mathematics at High Achievement Levels: Evidence from the American Mathematics Competitions," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 24(2), pages 109-128, Spring.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:24:y:2010:i:2:p:109-28
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.24.2.109
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Brown, Charles & Corcoran, Mary, 1997. "Sex-Based Differences in School Content and the Male-Female Wage Gap," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(3), pages 431-465, July.
    2. Glenn Ellison & Ashley Swanson, 2010. "The Gender Gap in Secondary School Mathematics at High Achievement Levels: Evidence from the American Mathematics Competitions," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 24(2), pages 109-128, Spring.
    3. Paglin, Morton & Rufolo, Anthony M, 1990. "Heterogeneous Human Capital, Occupational Choice, and Male-Female Earnings Differences," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 8(1), pages 123-144, January.
    4. 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 210-240, April.
    5. 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.
    6. Francine D. Blau & Lawrence M. Kahn, 2000. "Gender Differences in Pay," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(4), pages 75-99, Fall.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Yulia V. Kuzmina, 2016. "Can Teacher Practices Reduce the Gender Gap in Mathematics Interest for Students with Different Achievements?," HSE Working papers WP BRP 35/EDU/2016, National Research University Higher School of Economics.
    2. Lavy, Victor & Sand, Edith, 2015. "On The Origins of Gender Human Capital Gaps: Short and Long Term Consequences of Teachers’ Stereotypical Biases," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 1085, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    3. Dickerson, Andy & McIntosh, Steven & Valente, Christine, 2015. "Do the maths: An analysis of the gender gap in mathematics in Africa," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 1-22.
    4. Wiswall, Matthew & Stiefel, Leanna & Schwartz, Amy Ellen & Boccardo, Jessica, 2014. "Does attending a STEM high school improve student performance? Evidence from New York City," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 93-105.
    5. Golsteyn, Bart H.H. & Schils, Trudie, 2014. "Gender gaps in primary school achievement," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 176-187.
    6. Natalia Nollenberger & Núria Rodríguez-Planas & Almudena Sevilla, 2016. "The Math Gender Gap: The Role of Culture," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(5), pages 257-261, May.
    7. Iriberri, Nagore & Rey-Biel, Pedro, 2016. "Competitive Pressure Widens the Gender Gap in Performance: Evidence from a Two-Stage Competition in Mathematics," CEPR Discussion Papers 11493, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    8. Louis-Philippe Morin, 2015. "Do Men and Women Respond Differently to Competition? Evidence from a Major Education Reform," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(2), pages 443-491.
    9. Juanna Joensen, 2012. "Math and Gender: What if Girls Do Math?," 2012 Meeting Papers 992, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    10. Golsteyn, B.H.H. & Schils, T., 2014. "Gender gaps in primary school achievement. A decomposition into endowments and returns to IQ and non-cognitive factors," ROA Research Memorandum 007, Maastricht University, Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA).
    11. Gevrek, Z. Eylem & Seiberlich, Ruben R., 2014. "Semiparametric decomposition of the gender achievement gap: An application for Turkey," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(C), pages 27-44.
    12. Doris, Aedín & O’Neill, Donal & Sweetman, Olive, 2013. "Gender, single-sex schooling and maths achievement," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 35(C), pages 104-119.
    13. Friedman-Sokuler, Naomi & Justman, Moshe, 2016. "Gender streaming and prior achievement in high school science and mathematics," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 230-253.
    14. KAYABA, Yutaka, 2016. "How do People Procrastinate to Meet a Deadline?," Discussion paper series HIAS-E-33, Hitotsubashi Institute for Advanced Study, Hitotsubashi University.
    15. Glenn Ellison & Ashley Swanson, 2012. "Heterogeneity in High Math Achievement Across Schools: Evidence from the American Mathematics Competitions," NBER Working Papers 18277, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Prashant Bharadwaj & Giacomo De Giorgi & David Hansen & Christopher Neilson, 2012. "The Gender Gap in Mathematics: Evidence from Low- and Middle-Income Countries," NBER Working Papers 18464, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    17. Glenn Ellison & Ashley Swanson, 2010. "The Gender Gap in Secondary School Mathematics at High Achievement Levels: Evidence from the American Mathematics Competitions," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 24(2), pages 109-128, Spring.
    18. Victor Lavy & Olmo Silva & Felix Weinhardt, 2012. "The Good, the Bad, and the Average: Evidence on Ability Peer Effects in Schools," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 30(2), pages 367-414.
    19. Moshe Justman & Susan J. Méndez, 2016. "Gendered Selection of STEM Subjects for Matriculation," Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series wp2016n10, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne.
    20. Raymundo M. Campos Vázquez & Alma S. Santillán Hernández, 2016. "Análisis de diferencias en puntajes en la prueba ENLACE entre niños y niñas en el sistema escolar mexicano," Estudios Económicos, El Colegio de México, Centro de Estudios Económicos, vol. 31(1), pages 65-123.
    21. Danilowicz-Gösele, Kamila, 2016. ""A" is the aim?," Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers 291, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
    22. Victor Lavy & Olmo Silva & Felix Weinhardt, 2009. "The Good, the Bad and the Average: Evidence on the Scale and Nature of Ability Peer Effects in Schools," NBER Working Papers 15600, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    23. Nollenberger, Natalia & Rodríguez-Planas, Núria, 2017. "Let the Girls Learn! It is not Only about Math… It's about Gender Social Norms," IZA Discussion Papers 10625, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    24. Bharadwaj, Prashant & De Giorgi, Giacomo & Hansen, David & Neilson, Christopher, 2015. "The gender gap in mathematics: evidence from a middle-income country," Staff Reports 721, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
    25. repec:hig:wpaper:11edu2013 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination

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