NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Sex and Science: How Professor Gender Perpetuates the Gender Gap

Scott E. Carrell, Marianne E. Page, James E. West

NBER Working Paper No. 14959
Issued in May 2009
NBER Program(s):Economics of Education, Labor Studies

Why aren't there more women in science? Female college students are currently 37 percent less likely than males to obtain a bachelor's degree in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), and comprise only 25 percent of the STEM workforce. This paper begins to shed light on this issue by exploiting a unique dataset of college students who have been randomly assigned to professors over a wide variety of mandatory standardized courses. We focus on the role of professor gender. Our results suggest that while professor gender has little impact on male students, it has a powerful effect on female students' performance in math and science classes, their likelihood of taking future math and science courses, and their likelihood of graduating with a STEM degree. The estimates are largest for female students with very strong math skills, who are arguably the students who are most suited to careers in science. Indeed, the gender gap in course grades and STEM majors is eradicated when high performing female students' introductory math and science classes are taught by female professors. In contrast, the gender of humanities professors has only minimal impact on student outcomes. We believe that these results are indicative of important environmental influences at work.

download in pdf format
   (1209 K)

email paper

A non-technical summary of this paper is available in the September 2009 NBER digest.  You can sign up to receive the NBER Digest by email.

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w14959

Published: Scott E. Carrell & Marianne E. Page & James E. West, 2010. "Sex and Science: How Professor Gender Perpetuates the Gender Gap," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 125(3), pages 1101-1144, August. citation courtesy of

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Hunt w15853 Why Do Women Leave Science and Engineering?
Carrell and West w14081 Does Professor Quality Matter? Evidence from Random Assignment of Students to Professors
Dee w11660 Teachers and the Gender Gaps in Student Achievement
Hoffman and Oreopoulos w13182 A Professor Like Me: The Influence of Instructor Gender on College Achievement
Goldin, Katz, and Kuziemko w12139 The Homecoming of American College Women: The Reversal of the College Gender Gap
 
Publications
Activities
Meetings
NBER Videos
Themes
Data
People
About

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email: info@nber.org

Contact Us