The Math Gender Gap: The Role of Culture

47 Pages Posted: 16 Aug 2014

See all articles by Natalia Nollenberger

Natalia Nollenberger

Autonomous University of Barcelona

Núria Rodríguez-Planas

City University New York (CUNY), Queens College; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Almudena Sevilla Sanz

University of Oxford


This paper explores the role of cultural attitudes towards women in determining math educational gender gaps using the epidemiological approach. To identify whether culture matters, we estimate whether the math gender gap for each immigrant group living in a particular host country (and exposed to the same host country's laws and institutions) is explained by measures of gender equality in the parents' country of ancestry. We find that the higher the degree of gender equality in the country of ancestry, the higher the performance of second-generation immigrant girls relative to boys. This result is robust to alternative specifications, measures of gender equality and the inclusion of other human development indicators in the country of ancestry. The transmission of culture is higher among those in schools with a higher proportion of immigrants or in co-educational schools. Our results suggest that policies aimed at changing beliefs can prove effective in reducing the gender gap in mathematics.

Keywords: gender gap in math, immigrants, gender identity

JEL Classification: I21, I24, J16, Z13

Suggested Citation

Nollenberger, Natalia and Rodriguez-Planas, Nuria and Sevilla Sanz, Almudena, The Math Gender Gap: The Role of Culture. IZA Discussion Paper No. 8379, Available at SSRN:

Natalia Nollenberger (Contact Author)

Autonomous University of Barcelona ( email )

Plaça Cívica
Cerdañola del Valles
Barcelona, Barcelona 08193

Nuria Rodriguez-Planas

City University New York (CUNY), Queens College ( email )

65-30 Kissena Blvd
Flushing, NY 11367-1597
United States

HOME PAGE: http://

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072

Almudena Sevilla Sanz

University of Oxford ( email )

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

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