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Women's Colleges and Economics Major Choice: Evidence from Wellesley College Applicants

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  • Kristin F. Butcher
  • Patrick McEwan
  • Akila Weerapana

Abstract

Many observers argue that diversity in Economics and STEM fields is critical, not simply because of egalitarian goals, but because who is in a field may shape what is studied by it. If increasing the rate of majoring in mathematically-intensive fields among women is a worthy goal, then understanding whether women’s colleges causally affect that choice is important. Among all admitted applicants to Wellesley College, enrollees are 7.2 percentage points (94%) more likely to receive an Economics degree than non-enrollees (a plausible lower bound given negative selection into enrollment on math skills and major preferences). Overall, 3.2 percentage points—or 44% of the difference between enrollees and non-enrollees—is explained by college exposure to female instructors and students, consistent with a wider role for women’s colleges in increasing female participation in Economics.

Suggested Citation

  • Kristin F. Butcher & Patrick McEwan & Akila Weerapana, 2023. "Women's Colleges and Economics Major Choice: Evidence from Wellesley College Applicants," NBER Working Papers 31144, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:31144
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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