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Girls, girls, girls: gender composition and female school choice

  • Nicole Schneeweis
  • Martina Zweimüller

Gender segregation in the labor market may be explained by women's re- luctance to choose technical occupations, although the foundations for career choices are certainly laid earlier, during education. Educational experts claim that female students are doing better in math and science and are more likely to choose those subjects if they are in single-sex classes. Possible explanations are the lack of self-confidence of girls in male-dominated subjects, the domi- nating behavior of boys in the classroom and unequal treatment by teachers. In this paper, we identify the causal impact of gender composition in coedu- cational classes on the choice of school type for female students. We propose that girls are less likely to choose a female-dominated school type at the age of 14 after spending the previous years in classes with a higher share of female students. We address the problem of endogenous school choice by using nat- ural variation in gender composition of adjacent cohorts within schools. The results are clear-cut and survive powerful falsification and sensitivity checks: Females are less likely to choose a female-dominated school type and more likely to choose the technical school type if they were exposed to a higher share of girls in previous grades. Our paper contributes to the recent debate about coeducation either in certain subjects or at the school level.

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Paper provided by The Austrian Center for Labor Economics and the Analysis of the Welfare State, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria in its series NRN working papers with number 2009-05.

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Length: 29 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:jku:nrnwps:2009_05
Contact details of provider: Postal: NRN Labor Economics and the Welfare State, c/o Rudolf Winter-Ebmer, Altenbergerstr. 69, 4040 Linz
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  1. Booth, Alison L & Nolen, Patrick, 2009. "Choosing to Compete: How different are girls and boys?," CEPR Discussion Papers 7214, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Victor Lavy & Analía Schlosser, 2007. "Mechanisms and Impacts of Gender Peer Effects at School," NBER Working Papers 13292, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Machin, Stephen & Puhani, Patrick A., 2002. "Subject of Degree and the Gender Wage Differential: Evidence from the UK and Germany," IZA Discussion Papers 553, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Steven, P., 2014. "Girl Power? An Analysis Of Peer Effecst Using Exogenous Changes In The Gender Make-Up Of The Peer Group," Regional and Sectoral Economic Studies, Euro-American Association of Economic Development, vol. 14(3), pages 5-18.
  5. Sara J. Solnick, 1995. "Changes in women's majors from entrance to graduation at women's and coeducational colleges," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 48(3), pages 505-514, April.
  6. Sarah E. Turner & William G. Bowen, 1999. "Choice of major: The changing (unchanging) gender gap," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 52(2), pages 289-313, January.
  7. Sarah E. Turner & William G. Bowen, 1999. "Choice of Major: The Changing (Unchanging) Gender Gap," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 52(2), pages 289-313, January.
  8. Lavy, Victor, 2008. "Do gender stereotypes reduce girls' or boys' human capital outcomes? Evidence from a natural experiment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(10-11), pages 2083-2105, October.
  9. Caroline Hoxby, 2000. "Peer Effects in the Classroom: Learning from Gender and Race Variation," NBER Working Papers 7867, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Sherrilyn Billger, 2002. "Admitting men into a women's college: A natural experiment," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 9(7), pages 479-483.
  11. Billger, Sherrilyn M., 2006. "Reconstructing School Segregation: On the Efficacy and Equity of Single-Sex Schooling," IZA Discussion Papers 2037, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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