NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Where the boys aren't: Non-cognitive skills, returns to school and the gender gap in higher education

Brian A. Jacob

NBER Working Paper No. 8964
Issued in May 2002
NBER Program(s):   CH   ED

Nearly 60 percent of college students today are women. Using longitudinal data on a nationally representative cohort of eighth grade students in 1988, I examine two potential explanations for the differential attendance rates of men and women -- returns to schooling and non-cognitive skills. The attendance gap is roughly five percentage points for all high school graduates. Conditional on attendance, however, there are few differences in type of college, enrollment status or selectivity of institution. The majority of the attendance gap can be explained by differences in the characteristics of men and women, despite some gender differences in the determinants of college attendance. I find that higher non-cognitive skills and college premiums among women account for nearly 90 percent of the gender gap in higher education. Interestingly, non-cognitive factors continue to influence college enrollment after controlling for high school achievement.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w8964

Published: Jacob, Brian. “Where the Boys Aren’t: Non-Cognitive Skills, Returns to School and the Gender Gap in Higher Education.” Economics of Education Review 21 (2002): 589-598.

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