How do students make educational choices? The influence of gender stereotypes about abilities

Claire Thibout, Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne
Benoît Rapoport, Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne

In almost all developed countries, girls and boys have an equal access to education and seem free to choose their educational field. However, girls choose more often fields leading to low-paid jobs and less prestigious careers, while they perform as well as boys at school. An economic analysis of these gendered choices focused on abilities and attainments is suggested in this paper. We develop a simple model of educational choices, in which a stereotype specifies that the anticipated cost of choosing a scientist or literary track, depending on the skill in each subject, is not the same for boys and girls. Next, considering grades as a proxy for abilities, we investigate in the French context whether grades influence differently girls’ and boys’ choices, using a panel of French pupils (1995-2011). We estimate both Baccalauréat field choices and higher-education choices. Results show that grades influence similarly boys and girls’ subject choices (Sciences versus Humanities), but they impact differently the choice of the type of track. At secondary school, girls who perform better in Math but with an average global level choose more often a general Economic or Literary Bac rather than a technical Bac, while the choice of a scientist-oriented technical Bac would allow to value at best their abilities in Math. Regarding higher-education, girls are less sensitive than boys to their grades in science to choose a Preparatory Class (the most prestigious field), but they are more sensitive than boys to their grades in humanities.

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Presented in Session 6: Investing in the quality of children