Discussion paper

DP16582 Parents and Peers: Gender Stereotypes in the Field of Study

Gender segregation in the field of study is still a pervasive phenomenon in many countries. In this paper, we highlight the crucial role of parents and peers in adolescents’ decision making on their educational choices, leading to a mismatch of talents. We design a lab-in-the-field experiment that exposes 2,500 middle school students in Italy to different information treatments before they choose between a female-typed task (literature) and a male-typed task (math). We find that students choose a more gender-stereotypical subject (girls choose more literature and boys choose more math) when they are induced to think about the recommendation of same-gender parents. The effect is driven by girls who expect literature as a recommendation from their mothers and boys who expect math as a recommendation from their fathers. The field choice of male and female students is not affected when they expect their peers to observe their decision. However, we show
that girls shy away from math to avoid interactions in male-dominated contexts.


Carlana, M and L Corno (2021), ‘DP16582 Parents and Peers: Gender Stereotypes in the Field of Study ‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 16582. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp16582