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Peer Gender Composition and Choice of College Major

Author

Listed:
  • Massimo Anelli
  • Giovanni Peri

Abstract

In this paper we analyze whether the gender composition of classmates in high school affects the choice of college-major by shifting it towards those majors preferred by the prevalent gender in the class. We use a novel dataset of 30,000 Italian students graduated from high school between 1985 and 2005 and followed through college and in the labor market. We exploit the fact that the gender composition of the graduating high school class, from one year to the next, within School-Teacher assignment group, shows large variation that we document to be as good as random. We find that male students who attended a high school class with at least 90% of male classmates were significantly more likely to choose "prevalently male" college majors (i.e. Economics, Business and Engineering). However, in the long-run, the higher propensity to enroll in "prevalently male" majors (that are more academically demanding) did not translate in higher probability of graduating in them. In fact, male students from high school classes with >90% males ended up with lower probability of graduating altogether, and they exhibited worse university performance. The peer-pressure towards prevalently male majors may generate mismatches that are counterproductive for college performance and graduation probability of male students. We do not observe these effects on female.

Suggested Citation

  • Massimo Anelli & Giovanni Peri, 2013. "Peer Gender Composition and Choice of College Major," NBER Working Papers 18744, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18744
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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w18744.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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 129-144, Spring.
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    4. Schneeweis, Nicole & Zweimüller, Martina, 2012. "Girls, girls, girls: Gender composition and female school choice," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 482-500.
    5. Claudia Goldin, 2006. "The Quiet Revolution That Transformed Women's Employment, Education, and Family," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 1-21, May.
    6. Scott E. Carrell & Mark L. Hoekstra, 2010. "Externalities in the Classroom: How Children Exposed to Domestic Violence Affect Everyone's Kids," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(1), pages 211-228, January.
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    8. Muriel Niederle & Lise Vesterlund, 2007. "Do Women Shy Away From Competition? Do Men Compete Too Much?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(3), pages 1067-1101.
    9. Thomas S. Dee, 2007. "Teachers and the Gender Gaps in Student Achievement," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 42(3).
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    12. Jonathan Guryan & Kory Kroft & Matthew J. Notowidigdo, 2009. "Peer Effects in the Workplace: Evidence from Random Groupings in Professional Golf Tournaments," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(4), pages 34-68, October.
    13. Bruce Sacerdote, 2001. "Peer Effects with Random Assignment: Results for Dartmouth Roommates," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(2), pages 681-704.
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    15. 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.
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    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. boys and girls in the classroom
      by René Böheim in Econ Tidbits on 2013-02-23 14:20:00

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    Cited by:

    1. Maia Güell & Michele Pellizzari & Giovanni Pica & José V. Rodríguez Mora, 2015. "Correlating Social Mobility and Economic Outcomes," CSEF Working Papers 394, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy, revised 27 Jul 2016.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • Z18 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Public Policy

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