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Math and Gender: Is Math a Route to a High-Powered Career?

  • Joensen, Juanna Schrøter


    (University of Chicago)

  • Nielsen, Helena Skyt


    (Aarhus University)

There is a large gender gap in advanced math coursework in high school that many believe exists because girls are discouraged from taking math courses. In this paper, we exploit an institutional change that reduced the costs of acquiring advanced high school math to determine if access is, in fact, the mechanism – in particular for girls at the top of the math ability distribution. By estimating marginal treatment effects of acquiring advanced math qualifications, we document substantial beneficial wage effects from encouraging even more females to opt for these qualifications. Our analysis suggests that the beneficial effect comes from accelerating graduation and attracting females to high-paid or traditionally male-dominated career tracks and to CEO positions. Our results may be reconciled with experimental and empirical evidence suggesting there is a pool of unexploited math talent among high ability girls that may be retrieved by changing the institutional set-up of math teaching.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 7164.

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Length: 32 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp7164
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  1. Nina Smith & Valdemar Smith & Mette Verner, 2013. "Why Are So Few Females Promoted into CEO and Vice President Positions? Danish Empirical Evidence, 1997?2007," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 66(2), pages 380-408, April.
  2. James J. Heckman & Sergio Urzua & Edward Vytlacil, 2006. "Understanding Instrumental Variables in Models with Essential Heterogeneity," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(3), pages 389-432, August.
  3. Örs, Evren & Palomino, Frédéric & Peyrache, Eloïc, 2008. "Performance Gender-Gap: Does Competition Matter?," CEPR Discussion Papers 6891, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Joensen, Juanna Schrøter & Nielsen, Helena Skyt, 2006. "Is there a Causal Effect of High School Math on Labor Market Outcomes?," IZA Discussion Papers 2357, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Marianne Bertrand & Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 2010. "Dynamics of the Gender Gap for Young Professionals in the Financial and Corporate Sectors," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(3), pages 228-55, July.
  6. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz & Ilyana Kuziemko, 2006. "The Homecoming of American College Women: The Reversal of the College Gender Gap," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(4), pages 133-156, Fall.
  7. 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, 07.
  8. Muriel Niederle & Lise Vesterlund, 2010. "Explaining the Gender Gap in Math Test Scores: The Role of Competition," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 24(2), pages 129-44, Spring.
  9. Bedard, Kelly & Cho, Insook, 2010. "Early gender test score gaps across OECD countries," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 348-363, June.
  10. Muriel Niederle & Lise Vesterlund, 2005. "Do Women Shy Away From Competition? Do Men Compete Too Much?," NBER Working Papers 11474, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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