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A Professor Like Me: The Influence of Instructor Gender on College Achievement

  • Florian Hoffman
  • Philip Oreopoulos

Many wonder whether teacher gender plays an important role in higher education by influencing student achievement and subject interest. The data used in this paper helps identify average effects from male and female college students assigned to male or female teachers. In contrast to previous work at the primary and secondary school level, our focus on large first-year undergraduate classes isolates gender interaction effects due to students reacting to instructors rather than instructors reacting to students. In addition, by focusing on college, we examine the extent to which gender interactions may exist at later ages. We find that assignment to a same-sex instructor boosts relative grade performance and the likelihood of completing a course, but the magnitudes of these effects are small. A same-sex instructor increases average grade performance by at most 5 percent of its standard deviation and decreases the likelihood of dropping a course by 1.2 percentage points. The effects are similar when conditioning on initial ability (high school achievement), and ethnic background (mother tongue not English), but smaller when conditioning on mathematics and science courses. The effects of same-sex instructors on upper-year course selection are insignificant.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w13182.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13182.

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Date of creation: Jun 2007
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Publication status: published as Florian Hoffmann & Philip Oreopoulos, 2009. "A Professor Like Me: The Influence of Instructor Gender on College Achievement," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 44(2).
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13182
Note: CH ED LS
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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, vol. 36(2), pages 185-194, May.
  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. Thomas Diprete & Claudia Buchmann, 2006. "Gender-specific trends in the value of education and the emerging gender gap in college completion," Demography, Springer, vol. 43(1), pages 1-24, February.
  4. Holmlund, Helena & Sund, Krister, 2005. "Is the Gender Gap in School Performance Affected by the Sex of the Teacher?," Working Paper Series 5/2005, Swedish Institute for Social Research.
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