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Why Are Most University Students Women? Evidence Based on Academic Performance, Study Habits and Parental Influences

  • Zeman, Klarka
  • Frenette, Marc

In this study, we use new Canadian data containing detailed information on standardized test scores, school marks, parental and peer influences, and other socio-economic background characteristics of boys and girls to try to account for the large gender gap in university attendance. Among 19-year-old youth in 2003, 38.8% of girls had attended university, compared with only 25.7% of boys. However, young men and women were about equally likely to attend college. We find that differences in observable characteristics between boys and girls account for more than three quarters (76.8%) of the gap in university participation. In order of importance, the main factors are differences in school marks at age 15, standardized test scores in reading at age 15, study habits, parental expectations and the university earnings premium relative to high school. Altogether, the four measures of academic abilities used in the study "overall marks, performance on standardized reading tests, study habits and repeating grade" collectively account for 58.9% of the gender gap in university participation. These results suggest that understanding why girls outperform boys in the classroom may be a key to understanding the gender divide in university participation.

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Paper provided by Statistics Canada, Analytical Studies Branch in its series Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series with number 2007303e.

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Date of creation: 20 Sep 2007
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Handle: RePEc:stc:stcp3e:2007303e
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  1. Oaxaca, Ronald, 1973. "Male-Female Wage Differentials in Urban Labor Markets," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 14(3), pages 693-709, October.
  2. David Neumark, 1988. "Employers' Discriminatory Behavior and the Estimation of Wage Discrimination," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 23(3), pages 279-295.
  3. Alan Manning & Helen Robinson, 1998. "Something in the way She Movcs: A Fresh Look at an Old Gap," CEP Discussion Papers dp0389, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  4. Brian A. Jacob, 2002. "Where the boys aren't: Non-cognitive skills, returns to school and the gender gap in higher education," NBER Working Papers 8964, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Frenette, Marc, 2007. "Why Are Youth from Lower-income Families Less Likely to Attend University? Evidence from Academic Abilities, Parental Influences, and Financial Constraints," Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series 2007295e, Statistics Canada, Analytical Studies Branch.
  6. Carneiro, Pedro & Heckman, James J., 2002. "The Evidence on Credit Constraints in Post-Secondary Schooling," IZA Discussion Papers 518, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. Louis N. Christofides & Michael Hoy & Ling Yang, 2008. "The Gender Imbalance in Participation in Canadian Universities (1977-2005)," University of Cyprus Working Papers in Economics 5-2008, University of Cyprus Department of Economics.
  8. Jacob, Brian A., 2002. "Where the boys aren't: non-cognitive skills, returns to school and the gender gap in higher education," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 21(6), pages 589-598, December.
  9. Thomas S. Dee, 2007. "Teachers and the Gender Gaps in Student Achievement," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 42(3).
  10. J.B. Burbidge & L. Magee & A.L. Robb, 2001. "The Education Premium in Canada and the United States," Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers 60, McMaster University.
  11. Moffitt, Robert A., 1999. "New developments in econometric methods for labor market analysis," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 24, pages 1367-1397 Elsevier.
  12. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz & Ilyana Kuziemko, 2006. "The Homecoming of American College Women: The Reversal of the College Gender Gap," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(4), pages 133-156, Fall.
  13. Oaxaca, Ronald L. & Ransom, Michael R., 1994. "On discrimination and the decomposition of wage differentials," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 5-21, March.
  14. James J. Heckman & Jora Stixrud & Sergio Urzua, 2006. "The Effects of Cognitive and Noncognitive Abilities on Labor Market Outcomes and Social Behavior," NBER Working Papers 12006, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Alan S. Blinder, 1973. "Wage Discrimination: Reduced Form and Structural Estimates," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 8(4), pages 436-455.
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