Peer Gender Composition and Choice of College Major

49 Pages Posted: 26 Jan 2013

See all articles by Massimo Anelli

Massimo Anelli

Bocconi University; CESifo; IZA; Bocconi University - DONDENA - Carlo F. Dondena Centre for Research on Social Dynamics; Fondazione Rodolfo DeBenedetti

Giovanni Peri

University of California, Davis - Department of Economics

Date Written: January 2013

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

Anelli, Massimo and Peri, Giovanni, Peer Gender Composition and Choice of College Major (January 2013). NBER Working Paper No. w18744. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2207278

Massimo Anelli (Contact Author)

Bocconi University ( email )

Via Sarfatti, 25
Milan, MI 20136
Italy

CESifo ( email )

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

Bocconi University - DONDENA - Carlo F. Dondena Centre for Research on Social Dynamics ( email )

Via Roentgen 1
Milan, 20136
Italy

Fondazione Rodolfo DeBenedetti ( email )

Via Roentgen 1,
Room 5.C1-11
Milan, Milano 20136
Italy

HOME PAGE: http://www.frdb.org

Giovanni Peri

University of California, Davis - Department of Economics ( email )

One Shields Drive
Davis, CA 95616-8578
United States
530-752-3033 (Phone)
530-752-9382 (Fax)

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