Gender Differences in Persistence in a Field of Study
50 Pages Posted: 24 May 2021
Date Written: 2021
Weaker retention of women in quantitatively oriented fields, particularly STEM* is widely seen in US higher education. This persistence gap is often explained by less generous grading in these fields and the conjectured tendency of female students to generally exhibit stronger “sensitivity” to grades. We examine student persistence in a wide spectrum of academic fields using a rich Indiana University Learning Analytics dataset. We find that the phenomenon of women’s relatively lower persistence in STEM in response to lower grades does not universally extend to other disciplines. Further, a stronger response, in terms of attrition, to grades received is not a gender-specific characteristic but more likely to reflect gender differences in the underlying field preferences. In other words, it is a weaker preference for a field of study that is likely to make students more responsive to grades received in it, rather than the other way around as is commonly suggested.
JEL Classification: I230, I240, J240, D210
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation