Gender Differences in Field of Study Choice Set of STEM-Bound Applicants

Sigal Alon, Tel Aviv University
Thomas A. DiPrete, Columbia University

Sex segregation in fields of study persists despite the female advantage in college graduation rate. In a world where gender norms have changed but gender stereotypes remain strong, we argue that attitudes and orientation towards behaviors are less constrained by gendered institutions than are behaviors themselves, and therefore sex segregation in the choice set of considered majors may be lower than in the chosen majors themselves. With a unique data on the broader set of fields that are considered by STEM-bound applicants to elite Israeli universities, we find support for this theory by examining whether second choice fields are as segregated as are first choice fields, whether gender differences in academic proficiency have the same effect on the choice set of men and women, whether choices depends on the major’s characteristics, and whether and how recent trends in female participation in STEM fields shape the gender gap in choice set.

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Presented in Session 13: Gender, Higher Education, and STEM Fields