A Professor Like Me: The Influence of Instructor Gender on College Achievement
Many wonder whether teacher gender plays an important role in higher education by influencing student achievement and subject interest. The data used in this paper helps identify average effects from male and female college students assigned to male or female teachers. In contrast to previous work at the primary and secondary school level, our focus on large first-year undergraduate classes isolates gender interaction effects due to students reacting to instructors rather than instructors reacting to students. In addition, by focusing on college, we examine the extent to which gender interactions may exist at later ages. We find that assignment to a same-sex instructor boosts relative grade performance and the likelihood of completing a course, but the magnitudes of these effects are small. A same-sex instructor increases average grade performance by at most 5 percent of its standard deviation and decreases the likelihood of dropping a course by 1.2 percentage points. The effects are similar when conditioning on initial ability (high school achievement), and ethnic background (mother tongue not English), but smaller when conditioning on mathematics and science courses. The effects of same-sex instructors on upper-year course selection are insignificant.
We are extremely grateful to Marianne Lynham, Matthew Hendrickson, Josie Lalonde, Rick Hayward, and Karel Swift for helping us obtain and work with the data used in this project, and to Rita Ahmadyar, Nicole Corbett, and Paul Ternamian for outstanding research assistance. We also thank seminar participants at UC Davis and the University of Toronto. Oreopoulos thanks the Social Sciences and Research Council and the Canadian Labour Market and Skills Researcher Network for financial support. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Florian Hoffmann & Philip Oreopoulos, 2009. "A Professor Like Me: The Influence of Instructor Gender on College Achievement," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 44(2). citation courtesy of