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Culture, Gender, and Math: A Revisitation


  • Anghel, Brindusa

    (FEDEA, Madrid)

  • Rodríguez-Planas, Núria

    (Queens College, CUNY)

  • Sanz-de-Galdeano, Anna

    (Universidad de Alicante)


Using five waves of PISA data spanning the period 2003-2015 and exploiting variation both across- and within-countries, we find that the positive association between the female-male gender gap in math test scores (which on average favors boys) and alternative measures of gender equality vanishes in OECD countries once we account for country fixed effects. Our findings highlight the relevance of country-level confounding factors when relying on cross-country analyses to study the relationship between the gender gap in math and female empowerment. Interestingly, our analysis for non-OECD countries uncovers a positive and statistically significant relationship between the math gender gap and female labor force participation. Similar results hold for the female-male gap in reading scores, which generally favors girls. This suggests that, in non-OECD countries, females' human capital accumulation (relative to that of males) is affected by their labor market prospects.

Suggested Citation

  • Anghel, Brindusa & Rodríguez-Planas, Núria & Sanz-de-Galdeano, Anna, 2019. "Culture, Gender, and Math: A Revisitation," IZA Discussion Papers 12371, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp12371

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. Devin G. Pope & Justin R. Sydnor, 2010. "Geographic Variation in the Gender Differences in Test Scores," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 24(2), pages 95-108, Spring.
    4. Rodríguez-Planas, Núria & Nollenberger, Natalia, 2018. "Let the girls learn! It is not only about math … it's about gender social norms," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 230-253.
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    Cited by:

    1. McNally, Sandra, 2020. "Gender Differences in Tertiary Education: What Explains STEM Participation?," IZA Policy Papers 165, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).

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    More about this item


    gender gap in math and reading scores; OECD and non-OECD; female employment and opportunities;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics

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