DP11411 Competitive Schools and the Gender Gap in the Choice of Field of Study

Author(s): Fanny Landaud, Son-Thierry Ly, Eric Maurin
Publication Date: July 2016
Keyword(s): Gender gap in science, selective school
JEL(s): I21, I24, I28
Programme Areas: Labour Economics
Link to this Page: www.cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=11411

French students have to choose a major field of study at the end of their first year of high school. This is a very important decision as students have little leeway to change their field of study during the two last years of high school. Building on a RD design, this paper reveals that enrollment at a more selective high school, with higher-achieving peers, has no impact on boys' choices, but a very significant impact on girls' ones: they turn away from scientific fields and settle for less competitive and prestigious ones. Estimated effects are very large: an increase of about 10% of a SD in the ability level of high school peers induces a reduction of about 10 percentage points in the proportion of girls who choose to specialize in science. Effects are even larger for girls at the top of the ability distribution.