Discussion paper

DP15589 Gender Differences in College Applications: Aspiration and Risk Management

We study gender differences in decision-making strategy when applying for college using
applications data for all college applicants in Ireland over the 2015-17 period. Detailed
information on high school subjects and grades enable us to examine how the college choices
of equally achieving students differ by gender. We find that female students better balance the
opportunity to aim for highly selective programmes with their top choices while also listing
programmes with lower entry requirements so as to reduce their risk of not being admitted to
any programme. We also find that females favour field of study over institution with their top
3 choices being more likely to cluster on field of study and less likely to be for a particular
college. When we investigate how effects differ across the achievement distribution, we find
that gender differences in risk management are concentrated amongst high achieving students.


Delaney, J and P Devereux (2020), ‘DP15589 Gender Differences in College Applications: Aspiration and Risk Management‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 15589. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp15589