TrygFonden's Child Research Seminar Series: Helene Willadsen, University of Copenhagen

Title: Gender Differences in Choice of Educational Field:Evidence from a Large-Scale Survey Experiment

Info about event


Thursday 25 April 2024,  at 12:15 - 13:30


Fuglesangs Allé 4, 8210 Aarhus V, Building 2630(K), Room 101

Title: Gender Differences in Choice of Educational Field:Evidence from a Large-Scale Survey Experiment

Authors: Anne Toft Hansen, Michael A. Kuhn, Sally Sadoff and Helene Willadsen


Gender differences in college major explain a large share of the gender gap in earnings. To study why men and women sort into different fields, we conduct a large-scale survey experiment among almost 20,000 college applicants in Denmark. We estimate the expected tradeoffs associated with the gender composition of a major within each applicant's set of rank-ordered most-preferred fields. 

Both men and women expect that if they major in more heavily female fields, they will have lower earnings and a higher probability of partnership and parenthood. In contrast, only women expect higher educational and work satisfaction in female fields. We structurally estimate preferences over earnings, family outcomes, and educational/work satisfaction and find that women put more weight on family outcomes than men. However, these gender differences in preferences do little to explain differences in choice of major. Instead, of the factors we consider, 72\% (17\%) of the gender difference in major choice is driven by women expecting a larger tradeoff than men between how female a major is and educational (work) satisfaction. Our results suggest that women are deterred from male dominated fields largely due to expectations about poor classroom and workplace experiences. Our findings inform policies aimed at shifting the gender composition of college majors and subsequent gender earnings gaps.