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Do professors really perpetuate the gender gap in science? Evidence from a natural experiment in a French higher education institution

Author

Listed:
  • Thomas Breda

    (CEP - Centre for Economic Performance - LSE)

  • Son Thierry Ly

    (PSE - Paris-Jourdan Sciences Economiques - ENS Paris - École normale supérieure - Paris - INRA - Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, PSE - Paris School of Economics)

Abstract

Stereotypes, role models played by teachers and social norms are known to push girls to choose humanities rather than science. Do professors directly contribute to this strong selection by discriminating more against girls in more scientific subjects? Using the entrance exam of a French higher education institution (the Ecole Normale Supérieure) as a natural experiment, we show the opposite: discrimination goes in favor of females in more male-connoted subjects (e.g. math, philosophy) and in favor of males in more female-connoted subjects (e.g. literature, biology), inducing a rebalancing of sex ratios between science and humanities majors. We identify discrimination by systematic differences in students' scores between oral tests (non-blind toward gender) and anonymous written tests (blind toward gender). By making comparisons of these oral/written scores differences between different subjects for a given student, we are able to control both for a student's ability in each subject and for her overall ability at oral exams. The mechanisms likely to drive this positive discrimination toward the minority gender are also discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas Breda & Son Thierry Ly, 2012. "Do professors really perpetuate the gender gap in science? Evidence from a natural experiment in a French higher education institution," PSE Working Papers halshs-00677438, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:psewpa:halshs-00677438
    Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-00677438
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Scott E. Carrell & Marianne E. Page & James E. West, 2010. "Sex and Science: How Professor Gender Perpetuates the Gender Gap," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(3), pages 1101-1144.
    2. 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.
    3. Moro, Andrea & Norman, Peter, 2004. "A general equilibrium model of statistical discrimination," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 114(1), pages 1-30, January.
    4. Thomas S. Dee, 2007. "Teachers and the Gender Gaps in Student Achievement," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 42(3).
    5. Florian Hoffmann & Philip Oreopoulos, 2009. "A Professor Like Me: The Influence of Instructor Gender on College Achievement," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 44(2).
    6. Cecilia Rouse & Claudia Goldin, 2000. "Orchestrating Impartiality: The Impact of "Blind" Auditions on Female Musicians," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 715-741, September.
    7. 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.
    8. McCrary, Justin, 2008. "Manipulation of the running variable in the regression discontinuity design: A density test," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 698-714, February.
    9. Coate, Stephen & Loury, Glenn C, 1993. "Will Affirmative-Action Policies Eliminate Negative Stereotypes?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1220-1240, December.
    10. Rachel Croson & Uri Gneezy, 2009. "Gender Differences in Preferences," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 47(2), pages 448-474, June.
    11. Fryer, Roland, 2007. "Belief Flipping in a Dynamic Model of Statistical Discrimination," Scholarly Articles 2955768, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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    Cited by:

    1. José Manuel Cordero Ferrera & Rosa Simancas Rodríguez (ed.), 2016. "Investigaciones de Economía de la Educación," E-books Investigaciones de Economía de la Educación, Asociación de Economía de la Educación, edition 1, volume 11, number 11, Winter.
    2. Terrier, Camille, 2015. "Giving a little help to girls? evidence on grade discrimination and its effect on students' achievement," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 61696, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    3. Di Liberto, Adriana & Casula, Laura, 2016. "Teacher Assessments versus Standardized Tests: Is Acting "Girly" an Advantage?," IZA Discussion Papers 10458, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Christelle Garrouste, 2016. "Girls and science in France," Investigaciones de Economía de la Educación volume 11,in: José Manuel Cordero Ferrera & Rosa Simancas Rodríguez (ed.), Investigaciones de Economía de la Educación 11, edition 1, volume 11, chapter 41, pages 733-752 Asociación de Economía de la Educación.
    5. Camille Terrier, 2015. "Giving a Little Help to Girls? Evidence on Grade Discrimination and its Effect on Students' Achievement," CEP Discussion Papers dp1341, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    6. Lutter, Mark & Schröder, Martin, 2014. "Who becomes a tenured professor, and why? Panel data evidence from German sociology, 1980-2013," MPIfG Discussion Paper 14/19, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.

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    Keywords

    Discrimination; Gender Stereotypes; Natural Experiment; Sex and Science;

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