Maybe the Issue is not Who Economists Are, but What Economics Is and How it’s Taught: Changing Course Content and Structure to Improve Retention of Women in Undergraduate Economics

47 Pages Posted: 2 Aug 2021 Last revised: 19 Aug 2021

See all articles by Mallory Avery

Mallory Avery

University of Pittsburgh

Jane Caldwell

University of Pittsburgh - Department of Economics

Chris Schunn

University of Pittsburgh

Katherine Wolfe

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: August 4, 2021

Abstract

Economics continues to struggle with gender representation throughout the education pipeline. One reason that has been highlighted for this problem is the presentation of economics in introductory courses. In contrast to prior interventions that were primarily messaging-centered around "who" economists are (e.g., nudging messages, instructor gender), we tested changing the content of the introductory courses' recitation sections, or "what" economics is, by implementing meaningful applied problems and structured group work to change perceptions about the nature of economics. Using institutional data of 8,727 students we find that, compared to historical baselines, the intervention improved grades overall, eliminated underperformance by women in grades (particularly in Macro), and greatly reduced the gap by gender in the likelihood of continuing on to Intermediate economics. These effects are evidence that the content of introductory economics courses, not just the messaging around the gender of economists.

Keywords: Economics Instruction, Undergraduate Education, Gender, Inclusion, Pipeline

JEL Classification: A22, I21, I29, J16

Suggested Citation

Avery, Mallory and Caldwell, Jane and Schunn, Chris and Wolfe, Katherine, Maybe the Issue is not Who Economists Are, but What Economics Is and How it’s Taught: Changing Course Content and Structure to Improve Retention of Women in Undergraduate Economics (August 4, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3896567 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3896567

Mallory Avery (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh

Jane Caldwell

University of Pittsburgh - Department of Economics

4901 Wesley Posvar Hall
230 South Bouquet Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States

Chris Schunn

University of Pittsburgh ( email )

Katherine Wolfe

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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