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Gender Differences in Educational Attainment: Evidence on the Role of the Tracking Age from a Finnish Quasi-Experiment


  • Pekkarinen, Tuomas

    () (VATT, Helsinki)


This paper studies the relationship between the timing of tracking of pupils into vocational and academic secondary education and gender differences in educational attainment and income. We argue that in a system that streams students into vocational and academic tracks relatively late (age 15-16), girls are more likely to choose the academic track than boys because of gender differences in the timing of puberty. We exploit the Finnish comprehensive school reform of the 1970's to analyze this hypothesis. This reform postponed the tracking of students from the age of 10-11 to 15-16 and was adopted gradually by municipalities so that we can observe members of the same cohorts in both systems. We find that the postponement of the tracking age increased gender differences in the probability of choosing the academic secondary education and in the probability of continuing into academic tertiary education. The reform had particularily negative effects on boys from non-academic family backgrounds. Finally, the reform decreased the gender wage gap in adult income by four percentage points.

Suggested Citation

  • Pekkarinen, Tuomas, 2005. "Gender Differences in Educational Attainment: Evidence on the Role of the Tracking Age from a Finnish Quasi-Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 1897, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp1897

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Nicole Schneeweis & Martina Zweimüller, 2014. "Early Tracking and the Misfortune of Being Young," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 116(2), pages 394-428, April.
    2. Will Bartlett, 2009. "The Effectiveness Of Vocational Education In Promoting Equity And Occupational Mobility Amongst Young People," Economic Annals, Faculty of Economics, University of Belgrade, vol. 54(180), pages 7-39, January –.
    3. Brunello, Giorgio & Fort, Margherita & Weber, Guglielmo, 2007. "“For One More Year with You”: Changes in Compulsory Schooling, Education and the Distribution of Wages in Europe," IZA Discussion Papers 3102, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Giorgio Brunello & Daniele Checchi, 2007. "Does school tracking affect equality of opportunity? New international evidence," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 22, pages 781-861, October.
    5. Andrea M. Mühlenweg, 2008. "Educational Effects of Alternative Secondary School Tracking Regimes in Germany," Schmollers Jahrbuch : Journal of Applied Social Science Studies / Zeitschrift für Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, vol. 128(3), pages 351-379.
    6. Dreber, Anna & von Essen, Emma & Ranehill, Eva, 2011. "Age at pubertal onset and educational outcomes," Research Papers in Economics 2011:26, Stockholm University, Department of Economics.
    7. Mühlenweg, Andrea Maria, 2007. "Educational Effects of Early or Later Secondary School Tracking in Germany," ZEW Discussion Papers 07-079, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    8. Patrick A. Puhani & Andrea M. Weber, 2007. "Persistence of the School Entry Age Effect in a System of Flexible Tracking," University of St. Gallen Department of Economics working paper series 2007 2007-30, Department of Economics, University of St. Gallen.
    9. Kristian Koerselman, 2009. "Anticipatory effects of curriculum tracking," Discussion Papers 47, Aboa Centre for Economics.
    10. David Marsden & R Richardson, 1992. "Motivation and Performance Related Pay in the Public Sector: A Case Study of the Inland Revenue," CEP Discussion Papers dp0075, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    11. Birkenfeld, Florian & Hanafy, Shima'a, 2008. "Wie zentral sind die Abschlussprüfungen an deutschen Schulen wirklich?," Passauer Diskussionspapiere, Volkswirtschaftliche Reihe V-55-08, University of Passau, Faculty of Business and Economics.
    12. Machin, Erin & McNally, Sandra, 2007. "Educational effects of widening access to the academic track: a natural experiment," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 3648, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.

    More about this item


    tracking; gender wage gap; education;

    JEL classification:

    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination

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