DP16767 Adams and Eves: The Gender Gap in Economics Majors

Author(s): Graziella Bertocchi, Luca Bonacini, Marina Murat
Publication Date: December 2021
Keyword(s): Business Economics, economics, Education Gender Gap, Higher education, Major Choice, Major Switching, Mathematics, Stereotypes
JEL(s): A22, I23, J16
Programme Areas: Public Economics, Macroeconomics and Growth
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=16767

We investigate the gender gap in Economics among bachelor's and master's graduates in Italy between 2010 and 2019. First we establish that being female exerts a negative impact on the choice to major in Economics: at the bachelor level, only 73 women graduate in Economics for every 100 men, with the mathematical content of high school curricula as the key driver of the effect and a persistence of the gap at the master level. Second, within a full menu of major choices, Economics displays the largest gap, followed by STEM and then Business Economics. Third, decomposition analyses expose a unique role for the math background in driving the Economics gender gap relative to other fields. Fourth, a triple difference analysis of a high school reform shows that an increase in the math content of traditionally low math curricula caused an increase in the Economics gender gap among treated students.