The Female Advantage in College Academic Achievements and Horizontal Sex Segregation

Sigal Alon, Tel Aviv University
Dafna Gelbgiser, Cornell University

This study offers a structural explanation for the female advantage in college completion rates, stressing the importance of horizontal sex segregation across fields of study in shaping educational outcomes and gender inequality. The empirical investigation is based on the Beginning Postsecondary Students (BPS) dataset, which is a nationally representative sample of about 6,500 students who matriculated at any 4-year schools in 1995. I employ a straightforward analytical strategy for tracing the female advantage back to gendered selection of majors. First, I examine how much of the female advantage in college cumulative grades and graduation likelihood, that remains after netting out the effect of social and academic background, is explained by differences between fields of study in academic demands and grading norms. Second, I assess whether the gender composition of fields of study shape the behavioral effects on the female advantage.

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Presented in Session 169: Gender in Higher Education