Search EdWorkingPapers

Search for EdWorkingPapers here by author, title, or keywords.

College Field Specialization and Beliefs about Relative Performance: An Experimental Intervention to Understand Gender Gaps in STEM

Beliefs about relative academic performance may shape field specialization and explain gender gaps in STEM enrollment, but little causal evidence exists. To test whether these beliefs are malleable and salient enough to change behavior, I run a randomized controlled trial with 5,700 undergraduates across seven introductory STEM courses. Providing relative performance information shrinks gender gaps in biased beliefs substantially and closes ten percent of the gender gap in subsequent STEM course-taking. The gap closes due to men taking fewer STEM credits; women’s behavior is unchanged, implying that male overconfidence rather than female underconfidence contributes to gaps in specialization. Beliefs matter, but may not be a useful target for facilitating female STEM participation.

Keywords
STEM, beliefs, gender, college major
Education level
Document Object Identifier (DOI)
10.26300/webn-jz41

EdWorkingPaper suggested citation:

Owen, Stephanie. (). College Field Specialization and Beliefs about Relative Performance: An Experimental Intervention to Understand Gender Gaps in STEM. (EdWorkingPaper: 22-604). Retrieved from Annenberg Institute at Brown University: https://doi.org/10.26300/webn-jz41

Machine-readable bibliographic record: RIS, BibTeX