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The Gender Gap in Mathematics: Evidence from Low- and Middle-Income Countries

Author

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  • Prashant Bharadwaj
  • Giacomo De Giorgi
  • David Hansen
  • Christopher Neilson

Abstract

We establish the presence of a gender gap in mathematics across many low- and middle-income countries using detailed, comparable test score data. Examining micro level data on school performance linked to household demographics we note that first, the gender gap appears to increase with age. Indeed, the gap nearly doubles when comparing 4th grade and 8th grade test scores. Second, we test whether commonly proposed explanations such as parental background and investments, unobserved ability, and classroom environment (including teacher gender) explain a substantial portion of the gap. While none of these explanations help in substantially explaining the gender gap we observe, we show that boys and girls differ significantly in perceptions about their own ability in math, conditional on math test scores. Girls are much more likely to state that they dislike math, or find math difficult compared to boys. We highlight differences in self-assessed ability as areas for future research that might lead to a better understanding of the gender gap in math.

Suggested Citation

  • Prashant Bharadwaj & Giacomo De Giorgi & David Hansen & Christopher Neilson, 2012. "The Gender Gap in Mathematics: Evidence from Low- and Middle-Income Countries," NBER Working Papers 18464, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18464
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    Cited by:

    1. Hahn, Youjin & Hassani Mahmooei, Behrooz & Islam, Asadul & Patacchini, Eleonora & Zenou, Yves, 2016. "Do Friends Improve Female Education? The Case of Bangladesh," CEPR Discussion Papers 11615, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Umut Oguzoglu & Ozbeklik Serkan, 2016. "Like Father, Like Daughter (Unless There Is a Son): Sibling Sex Composition and Women's Stem Major Choice in College," Working Papers 596, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
    3. Speer, Jamin D., 2017. "The gender gap in college major: Revisiting the role of pre-college factors," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 69-88.
    4. Karthik Muralidharan & Ketki Sheth, 2016. "Bridging Education Gender Gaps in Developing Countries: The Role of Female Teachers," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 51(2), pages 269-297.
    5. Magdalena Smyk, 2017. "Gender beliefs and planned occupation: high school pupils and their parents," GRAPE Working Papers 3, GRAPE Group for Research in Applied Economics.
    6. Prashant Bharadwaj & Giacomo De Giorgi & David Hansen & Christopher A. Neilson, 2016. "The Gender Gap in Mathematics: Evidence from Chile," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65(1), pages 141-166.
    7. Michael J. Kottelenberg & Steven F. Lehrer, 2017. "Does Quebec's Subsidized Child Care Policy Give Boys and Girls an Equal Start?," NBER Working Papers 23259, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Moshe Justman & Susan J. Méndez, 2016. "Gendered Selection of STEM Subjects for Matriculation," Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series wp2016n10, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne.
    9. Bharadwaj, Prashant & De Giorgi, Giacomo & Hansen, David & Neilson, Christopher, 2015. "The gender gap in mathematics: evidence from a middle-income country," Staff Reports 721, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
    10. Magdalena Smyk, 2017. "Gender occupational segregation: the role of parents," GRAPE Working Papers 4, GRAPE Group for Research in Applied Economics.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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