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Gender differences in the choice of major: The importance of female role models

Author

Listed:
  • Catherine Porter

    () (Heriot-Watt University)

  • Danila Serra

    () (Southern Methodist University)

Abstract

Women have been traditionally underrepresented in several fields of study, notably those with the highest returns. While in the last two decades many disciplines, including mathematics and physical sciences, have made significant progress in attracting and retaining women, there has been little improvement in the field of economics, which remains heavily male-dominated. We report results from a field experiment aimed at increasing the percentage of women majoring in economics through exposure to carefully chosen female role models. We randomly selected a subset of Principles of Economics classes to be assigned to our role model treatment. Since the same classes were also offered and taught by the same instructors the previous year, we are able to employ a difference-in-differences estimation strategy to test whether the role model intervention increased the percentage of women planning to major in economics (survey-based) and enrolling in intermediate economics classes (administrative data) the semester and year following the intervention. Our results suggest that, while the role model intervention had no impact on male students, it significantly increased female students' likelihood of expressing interest in the economics major and enrolling in further economics classes.

Suggested Citation

  • Catherine Porter & Danila Serra, 2017. "Gender differences in the choice of major: The importance of female role models," Departmental Working Papers 1705, Southern Methodist University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:smu:ecowpa:1705
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    File URL: ftp://ftp1.economics.smu.edu/WorkingPapers/2017/SERRA/SERRA-2017-05.pdf
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    Cited by:

    1. Thomas Breda & Julien Grenet & Marion Monnet & Clémentine Van Effenterre, 2018. "Can female role models reduce the gender gap in science? Evidence from classroom interventions in French high schools," PSE Working Papers halshs-01713068, HAL.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    education gender gap; role models; field experiment; economics.;

    JEL classification:

    • A22 - General Economics and Teaching - - Economic Education and Teaching of Economics - - - Undergraduate
    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments

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