Social Change and Gender Differences in the Formation of Field of Study Choice Set

66 Pages Posted: 26 Oct 2013 Last revised: 22 Mar 2014

See all articles by Sigal Alon

Sigal Alon

Tel Aviv University - Department of Sociology

Thomas A. DiPrete

Columbia University - Department of Sociology

Date Written: February 19, 2014

Abstract

Women now surpass men in overall rates of college graduation in many industrialized countries, but sex segregation in fields of study persists. In a world where gender norms have changed but gender stereotypes remain strong, we argue that men and women’s attitudes and orientations towards fields of study in college are less constrained by gendered institutions than is the ranking of these fields. Accordingly, sex segregation in the broader choice set of majors considered by college applicants may be lower than the sex segregation in their first preference field of study selection. Over time, this may lead to diminishing sex segregation in higher education and the labor market. With unique data on the broader set of fields considered by applicants to elite Israeli universities, we find support for this theory. The factors that drive the gender gap in the choice of field of study, in particular labor market earnings, risk aversion and the sex composition of fields, are weaker in the broad set of choices than in the first choice. The result is less segregation in considered majors than in the first choice. We consider the theoretical implications of these results.

Keywords: education, gender, STEM, field of study, higher education

Suggested Citation

Alon, Sigal and DiPrete, Thomas A., Social Change and Gender Differences in the Formation of Field of Study Choice Set (February 19, 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2343739 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2343739

Sigal Alon

Tel Aviv University - Department of Sociology ( email )

Tel-Aviv
Israel

Thomas A. DiPrete (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Department of Sociology ( email )

New York, NY 10027
United States

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