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High School Choices and the Gender Gap in STEM

Author

Listed:
  • David Card

    (Department of Economics, University of California, Berkeley; and National Bureau of Economic Research)

  • A. Abigail Payne

    () (Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research and Department of Economics, The University of Melbourne; and Department of Economics, McMaster University)

Abstract

Women who graduate from university are less likely than men to specialize in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM). We use detailed administrative data for a recent cohort of high school students in Ontario, Canada, combined with data from the province's university admission system to analyze the dynamic process leading to this gap. We show that entry to STEM programs is mediated through an index of STEM readiness based on end-ofhigh-school courses in math and science. Most of the gender gap in STEM entry can be traced to differences in the rate of STEM readiness; less than a fifth is due to differences in the choice of major conditional on readiness. We then use high school course data to decompose the gap in STEM readiness among university entrants into two channels: one reflecting the gender gap in the fraction of high school students with the necessary prerequisites to enter STEM, and a second arising from differences in the fractions of females and males who enter university. The gender gap in the fraction of students with STEM prerequisites is small. The main factor is the lower university entry rate by men -- a difference that is due to the lower fraction of non-science oriented males who complete enough advanced level courses to qualify for university entry. We conclude that differences in course-taking patterns and preferences for STEM conditional on readiness contribute to male-female differences in the rate of entering STEM, but that the main source of the gap is the lower overall rate of university attendance by men.

Suggested Citation

  • David Card & A. Abigail Payne, 2017. "High School Choices and the Gender Gap in STEM," Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series wp2017n25, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne.
  • Handle: RePEc:iae:iaewps:wp2017n25
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:ecoedu:v:64:y:2018:i:c:p:129-143 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Zuazu Bermejo, Izaskun, 2018. "Cultural Values, Family Decisions and Gender Segregation in Higher Education: Evidence from 26 OECD Economies," IKERLANAK Ikerlanak;2018-107, Universidad del País Vasco - Departamento de Fundamentos del Análisis Económico I.
    3. Razzu, Giovanni & Singleton, Carl & Mitchell, Mark, 2018. "On why gender employment equality in Britain has stalled since the early 1990s," MPRA Paper 87190, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Jiang, Xuan, 2018. "Planting the Seeds for Success: Why Women in STEM Do Not Stick in the Field," MPRA Paper 89650, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Carlana, Michela, 2018. "Implicit Stereotypes: Evidence from Teachers' Gender Bias," IZA Discussion Papers 11659, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Post-secondary education; gender; STEM;

    JEL classification:

    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions

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