Nevertheless She Persisted? Gender Peer Effects in Doctoral STEM Programs
We study the effects of peer gender composition, a proxy for female-friendliness of environment, in STEM doctoral programs on persistence and degree completion. Leveraging unique new data and quasi-random variation in gender composition across cohorts within programs, we show that women entering cohorts with no female peers are 11.9pp less likely to graduate within 6 years than their male counterparts. A 1 sd increase in the percentage of female students differentially increases the probability of on-time graduation for women by 4.6pp. These gender peer effects function primarily through changes in the probability of dropping out in the first year of a Ph.D. program and are largest in programs that are typically male-dominated.
We thank Joshua Hawley, Brendan Price, and Christopher Severen for valuable feedback on this project. We also thank the participants in the OSU Applied Micro Seminar, the UC Davis Labor Seminar, the Broom Center for Demography at UCSB, the IZA 2nd Workshop on Gender and Family Economics, the Population Association of American 2018 Meeting, the Association for Education Finance and Policy 2018 Meeting, and the Society of Labor Economists 2017 Meeting. We gratefully acknowledge support from NIA, OBSSR, and NSF SciSIP through P01 AG039347; NSF EHR DGE 1348691, 1535399, 1760544; and the Ewing Marion Kauffman and Alfred P. Sloan Foundations. Weinberg was supported on P01 AG039347 by the NBER directly and on a subaward from NBER to Ohio State. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.