London School of Economics Centre for the Economics of Education LSE
Centre for the Economics of Education  (CEE)

Abstract for:

Do Professors Really Perpetuate the Gender Gap in Science? Evidence from a Natural Experiment in a French Higher Education Institution

Thomas  Breda,  Son Thierry  Ly,  June 2012
Paper No' CEEDP0138: | Full paper (pdf)
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Keywords: discrimination; gender stereotypes, natural experiment, sex and science

JEL Classification: I23; J16

Is hard copy/paper copy available? YES - Paper Copy Still In Print.
This Paper is published under the following series: CEE Discussion Papers
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Abstract:

Stereotypes, role models played by teachers and social norms influence girls’ academic self-concept and push girls to choose humanities rather than science. Do recruiters reinforce this strong selection by discriminating more against girls in more scientific subjects? Using the entrance exam of a French higher education institution (the Ecole Normale Supérieure) as a natural experiment, we show the opposite: discrimination goes in favor of females in more male-connoted subjects (e.g. math, philosophy) and in favor of males in more female-connoted subjects (e.g. literature, biology), inducing a rebalancing of sex ratios between students recruited for a research career in science and humanities majors. We identify discrimination by systematic differences in students’ scores between oral tests (non-blind toward gender) and anonymous written tests (blind toward gender). By making comparisons of these oral/written scores differences between different subjects for a given student, we are able to control both for a student’s ability in each subject and for her overall ability at oral exams. The mechanisms likely to drive this positive discrimination toward the minority gender are also discussed.