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Teachers and the Gender Gaps in Student Achievement

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  • Thomas S. Dee

Abstract

In the United States, girls outperform boys in measures of reading achievement while generally underperforming in science and mathematics. One major class of explanations for these gaps involves the gender-based interactions between students and teachers (e.g., role-model and Pygmalion effects). However, the evidence on whether these interactions actually matter is limited and contradictory. In this study, I present new empirical evidence on whether assignment to a same-gender teacher influences student achievement, teacher perceptions of student performance, and student engagement. This study's identification strategy exploits a unique "matched pairs" feature of a major longitudinal survey. Within-student comparisons based on these data indicate that assignment to a same-gender teacher significantly improves the achievement of both girls and boys as well as teacher perceptions of student performance and student engagement with the teacher's subject. For example, assignment to a female science teacher increases the likelihood that a girl views science as useful for her future. However, because the middle-school teachers in most academic subjects are female, these results also suggest that the gender dynamics between teachers and students at this level amplify boys' large underperformance in reading while attenuating the more modest underperformance of girls in math and science.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas S. Dee, 2005. "Teachers and the Gender Gaps in Student Achievement," NBER Working Papers 11660, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11660 Note: CH ED
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    1. Lucia Nixon & Michael Robinson, 1999. "The educational attainment of young women: Role model effects of female high school faculty," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 36(2), pages 185-194, May.
    2. Eric A. Hanushek & John F. Kain & Steven G. Rivkin & Daniel M. O'Brien, 2005. "The Market for Teacher Quality," Discussion Papers 04-025, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
    3. Robst, John & Keil, Jack & Russo, Dean, 1998. "The effect of gender composition of faculty on student retention," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 17(4), pages 429-439, October.
    4. Rouse, Cecilia Elena, 1999. "Further estimates of the economic return to schooling from a new sample of twins," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 149-157, April.
    5. Ronald G. Ehrenberg & Daniel D. Goldhaber & Dominic J. Brewer, 1995. "Do Teachers' Race, Gender, and Ethnicity Matter? Evidence from the National Educational Longitudinal Study of 1988," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 48(3), pages 547-561, April.
    6. Victor Lavy, 2004. "Do Gender Stereotypes Reduce Girls' Human Capital Outcomes? Evidence from a Natural Experiment," NBER Working Papers 10678, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Thomas S. Dee, 2004. "Teachers, Race, and Student Achievement in a Randomized Experiment," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(1), pages 195-210, February.
    8. Eric P. Bettinger & Bridget Terry Long, 2005. "Do Faculty Serve as Role Models? The Impact of Instructor Gender on Female Students," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 152-157, May.
    9. Orley Ashenfelter & Cecilia Rouse, 1998. "Income, Schooling, and Ability: Evidence from a New Sample of Identical Twins," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(1), pages 253-284.
    10. Thomas S. Dee & Sarah R. Cohodes, 2008. "Out-of-Field Teachers and Student Achievement," Public Finance Review, , vol. 36(1), pages 7-32, January.
    11. David Neumark & Rosella Gardecki, 1998. "Women Helping Women? Role Model and Mentoring Effects on Female Ph.D. Students in Economics," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 33(1), pages 220-246.
    12. 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.
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    JEL classification:

    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education

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