High Performing Peers and Female STEM Choices in School
30 Pages Posted: 9 Oct 2017
Date Written: October 9, 2017
Women have historically been underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs. There are concerns that the persistence of this gap over time is in part due to path dependence and the historical lack of high-performing women in these fields. This paper uses administrative data from China to examine the extent to which the presence of high-performing peers in mathematics affects the likelihood that women choose a science track during high school. Results indicate that exposure to a higher proportion of high-performing females increases girls' likelihood of majoring in STEM, while exposure to more high-performing males reduces it. There is little evidence that boys' major decisions are affected by their peers. Our results indicate that high-achieving girls in quantitative fields may have a role model or affirmation effect that encourages their female classmates to pursue a path in science.
Keywords: STEM, Peer Quality, Gender Effects, China
JEL Classification: I21, I24, I26, J24
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