Math, Girls and Socialism

51 Pages Posted: 30 May 2018

See all articles by Quentin Lippmann

Quentin Lippmann

Paris School of Economics

Claudia Senik

National Center for Scientific Research - Department and Laboratory of Applied and Theoretical Economics (DELTA); Universite Paris IV Sorbonne; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Abstract

This paper argues that the socialist episode in East Germany, which constituted a radical experiment in gender equality in the labor market and other instances, has left persistent tracks on gender norms. We focus on one of the most resilient and pervasive gender gaps in modern societies: mathematics. Using the German division as a natural experiment, we show that the underperformance of girls in math is sharply reduced in the regions of the former GDR, in contrast with those of the former FRG.We show that this East-West difference is due to girls' attitudes, confidence and competitiveness in math, and not to other confounding factors, such as the difference in economic conditions or teaching styles across the former political border. We also provide illustrative evidence that the gender gap in math is smaller in European countries that used to be part of the Soviet bloc, as opposed to the rest of Europe. The lesson is twofold: (1) a large part of the pervasive gender gap in math is due to social stereotypes; (2) institutions can durably modify these stereotypes.

Keywords: gender gap in math, institutions, German division, gender stereotypes

JEL Classification: I2, J16, J24, P36, Z13

Suggested Citation

Lippmann, Quentin and Senik, Claudia, Math, Girls and Socialism. IZA Discussion Paper No. 11532. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3185225

Quentin Lippmann (Contact Author)

Paris School of Economics ( email )

48 Boulevard Jourdan
Paris, 75014 75014
France

Claudia Senik

National Center for Scientific Research - Department and Laboratory of Applied and Theoretical Economics (DELTA) ( email )

ENS, 48, bd Jourdan
75014 Paris
France
+33 1 4313 6312 (Phone)

Universite Paris IV Sorbonne

Department of Economics
75230 Paris Cedex 05
France
01 43 13 63 12 (Phone)

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

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