25th February 2013
In a recent study (Anelli and Peri 2013) we ask if the gender composition of the high-school class attended by an individual affects his/her choice of study programme and subsequent long-term earning potentials. We use data that we collected on 30,000 students in Italian high schools over the period 1985-2005, including information on their high school, college career, family background and income as of 2005. We find that the gender ratio of high-school classmates significantly affected their choice of college major. In particular, women who attended a high-school class with a significant larger percentage of other female students (more than 75%) were significantly more likely to go on to choose college majors leading to high-paying jobs, namely engineering, economics, business and medicine. Those are also majors typically dominated by male students. On the other hand, female students in classes with a balanced gender mix were more likely to choose typically ‘female’ majors, that is, largely in the humanities and arts, and leading to lower earnings and limited overall career potential.
Sometimes the old ways are best.