DP11411 | Competitive Schools and the Gender Gap in the Choice of Field of Study

Publication Date

07/23/2016

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Abstract

French students have to choose a major field of study at the end of their first year of high school. This is a very important decision as students have little leeway to change their field of study during the two last years of high school. Building on a RD design, this paper reveals that enrollment at a more selective high school, with higher-achieving peers, has no impact on boys' choices, but a very significant impact on girls' ones: they turn away from scientific fields and settle for less competitive and prestigious ones. Estimated effects are very large: an increase of about 10% of a SD in the ability level of high school peers induces a reduction of about 10 percentage points in the proportion of girls who choose to specialize in science. Effects are even larger for girls at the top of the ability distribution.