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Math, Girls and Socialism

Author

Listed:
  • Lippmann, Quentin

    () (Paris School of Economics)

  • Senik, Claudia

    () (Paris School of Economics)

Abstract

This paper argues that the socialist episode in East Germany, which constituted a radical experiment in gender equality in the labor market and other instances, has left persistent tracks on gender norms. We focus on one of the most resilient and pervasive gender gaps in modern societies: mathematics. Using the German division as a natural experiment, we show that the underperformance of girls in math is sharply reduced in the regions of the former GDR, in contrast with those of the former FRG. We show that this East-West difference is due to girls' attitudes, confidence and competitiveness in math, and not to other confounding factors, such as the difference in economic conditions or teaching styles across the former political border. We also provide illustrative evidence that the gender gap in math is smaller in European countries that used to be part of the Soviet bloc, as opposed to the rest of Europe. The lesson is twofold: (1) a large part of the pervasive gender gap in math is due to social stereotypes; (2) institutions can durably modify these stereotypes.

Suggested Citation

  • Lippmann, Quentin & Senik, Claudia, 2018. "Math, Girls and Socialism," IZA Discussion Papers 11532, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp11532
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Joseph G. Altonji & Erica Blom & Costas Meghir, 2012. "Heterogeneity in Human Capital Investments: High School Curriculum, College Major, and Careers," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 4(1), pages 185-223, July.
    2. Claudia Goldin, 2014. "A Grand Gender Convergence: Its Last Chapter," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(4), pages 1091-1119, April.
    3. Arcidiacono, Peter, 2004. "Ability sorting and the returns to college major," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 121(1-2), pages 343-375.
    4. Juanna Schrøter Joensen & Helena Skyt Nielsen, 2009. "Is there a Causal Effect of High School Math on Labor Market Outcomes?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 44(1).
    5. Stefan Bauernschuster & Helmut Rainer, 2012. "Political regimes and the family: how sex-role attitudes continue to differ in reunified Germany," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 25(1), pages 5-27, January.
    6. Quentin Lippmann & Alexandre Georgieff & Claudia Senik, 2016. "Undoing Gender with Institutions. Lessons from the German Division and Reunification," Working Papers halshs-01297653, HAL.
    7. 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.
    8. Alberto Bisin & Thierry Verdier, 2010. "The Economics of Cultural Transmission and Socialization," Post-Print halshs-00754788, HAL.
    9. Pamela Campa & Michel Serafinelli, "undated". "Politico-Economic Regimes and Attitudes: Female Workers Under State-Socialism," Working Papers 2015-25, Department of Economics, University of Calgary, revised 29 Nov 2015.
    10. 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.
    11. Prashant Bharadwaj & Giacomo De Giorgi & David Hansen & Christopher A. Neilson, 2016. "The Gender Gap in Mathematics: Evidence from Chile," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65(1), pages 141-166.
    12. Quentin Lippmann & Alexandre Georgieff & Claudia Senik, 2016. "Undoing Gender with Institutions. Lessons from the German Division and Reunification," PSE Working Papers halshs-01297653, HAL.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    gender gap in math; institutions; German division; gender stereotypes;

    JEL classification:

    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • P36 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Institutions and Their Transitions - - - Consumer Economics; Health; Education and Training; Welfare, Income, Wealth, and Poverty
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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