Choice of Majors: Are Women Really Different from Men?

41 Pages Posted: 21 Aug 2017 Last revised: 4 Sep 2017

See all articles by Adriana D. Kugler

Adriana D. Kugler

McCourt School of Public Policy ; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); IZA Institute of Labor Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Catherine H. Tinsley

Georgetown University - Department of Management

Olga Ukhaneva

Georgetown University - Center for Business and Public Policy

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: August 2017

Abstract

Recent work suggests that women are more responsive to negative feedback than men in certain environments. We examine whether negative feedback in the form of relatively low grades in major-related classes explains gender differences in the majors undergraduates choose. We use unique administrative data from a large private university on the East Coast from 2009-2016 to test whether women are more sensitive to grades than men, and whether the gender composition of major-related classes affects major changes. We also control for other factors that may affect a student's major including: high school student performance, gender of faculty, and economic returns of majors. Finally, we examine how students' decisions are affected by external cues that signal STEM fields as masculine. The results show that high school academic preparation, faculty gender composition, and major returns have little effect on major switching behaviors, and that women and men are equally likely to change their major in response to poor grades in major-related courses. Moreover, women in male-dominated majors do not exhibit different patterns of switching behaviors relative to their male colleagues. Women are, however, more likely to switch out of male-dominated STEM majors in response to poor performance compared to men. Therefore, we find that it takes multiple signals of lack of fit into a major (low grades, gender composition of class, and external stereotyping signals) to impel female students to switch majors.

Keywords: Education Gender Gap, Major Choice, STEM fields

JEL Classification: I23, I24, I26, J16

Suggested Citation

Kugler, Adriana Debora and Tinsley, Catherine H. and Ukhaneva, Olga, Choice of Majors: Are Women Really Different from Men? (August 2017). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP12229. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3023215

Adriana Debora Kugler (Contact Author)

McCourt School of Public Policy ( email )

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Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

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IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Catherine H. Tinsley

Georgetown University - Department of Management ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://explore.georgetown.edu/people/tinsleyc/

Olga Ukhaneva

Georgetown University - Center for Business and Public Policy ( email )

Washington, DC 20057
United States

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