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How important are beliefs about gender differences in math ability? Transmission across generations and impacts on child outcomes

We study the transmission of beliefs about gender differences in math ability from adults to children and how this affects girls’ math performance relative to boys. We exploit randomly assigned variation in the proportion of a child’s middle school classmates whose parents believe boys are better than girls at learning math. An increase in exposure to peers whose parents report this belief increases a child’s likelihood of believing it, with similar effects for boys and girls and greater effects from peers of the same gender. This exposure also affects children’s perceived difficulty of math, aspirations, and academic performance, generating gains for boys and losses for girls. These effects are not driven by other sources of peer effects, such as peer cognitive ability, peer parent traits such as education and income, or the gender composition of the classroom.

Keywords
gender; belief formation; human capital; intergenerational transmission; persistence; behavioral economics
Education level
Document Object Identifier (DOI)
10.26300/8txd-ed83

EdWorkingPaper suggested citation:

Eble, Alex, and Feng Hu. (). How important are beliefs about gender differences in math ability? Transmission across generations and impacts on child outcomes. (EdWorkingPaper: -67). Retrieved from Annenberg Institute at Brown University: https://doi.org/10.26300/8txd-ed83

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