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Still staying away: Women and the economics major – evidence from two Southern liberal arts colleges


  • Fred H. Smith

    (Davidson College, Davidson, NC, US)

  • Christina Zenker

    (Zayed University, Abu Dhabi)


This article extends the literature that examines the underlying reasons for the gender imbalance in the field of economics. Previous research suggests that women are less likely to major in economics because of the lack of female role models in the subject (Ashworth and Evans 1999), math anxiety (Dynan and Rouse 1997), and the influence of parents' education levels (Leppel 2001) and career preferences (Turner and Bowen 1999). These papers have focused on data collected from nonsectarian, coeducational institutions located in the Northern United States. We focus our analysis on the choice of major at two Southern liberal arts colleges, Davidson College, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, and Salem College, a women’s college that is affiliated with the Moravian Church. We find that women are still less likely to major in economics than men, and that attending a women’s college has no effect on this result. However, we find that the likelihood of majoring in economics rises if students have a female instructor for an economics course, if they have completed calculus in high school, or if they perceive that their job prospects are better after majoring in economics.

Suggested Citation

  • Fred H. Smith & Christina Zenker, 2014. "Still staying away: Women and the economics major – evidence from two Southern liberal arts colleges," Econometrics Letters, Bilimsel Mektuplar Organizasyonu (Scientific letters), vol. 1(2), pages 1-7.
  • Handle: RePEc:bmo:bmoart:v:1:y:2014:i:2:p:1-7

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Basit Zafar, 2013. "College Major Choice and the Gender Gap," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 48(3), pages 545-595.
    2. Ann L. Owen & Elizabeth J. Jensen, 2000. "Why Are Women Such Reluctant Economists? Evidence from Liberal Arts Colleges," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(2), pages 466-470, May.
    3. Karen E. Dynan & Cecilia Elena Rouse, 1997. "The Underrepresentation of Women in Economics: A Study of Undergraduate Economics Students," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 28(4), pages 350-368, December.
    4. John Ashworth & J. Lynne Evans, 2001. "Modeling Student Subject Choice at Secondary and Tertiary Level: A Cross-Section Study," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 32(4), pages 311-320, January.
    5. Sarah E. Turner & William G. Bowen, 1999. "Choice of Major: The Changing (Unchanging) Gender Gap," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 52(2), pages 289-313, January.
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    More about this item


    Economics major; Undergraduate Economics; Gender; Liberal Arts Col..;

    JEL classification:

    • A22 - General Economics and Teaching - - Economic Education and Teaching of Economics - - - Undergraduate


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