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Recent research has focused on what shapes gender differences in academic achievement and students’ choice of university field of study. This study examines how teachers’ gender role attitudes and stereotypes influence the gender gap by affecting the school environment. It explores the extent to which teachers’ gender bias in high school influences students’ school attendance and academic performance in high-stakes university admission exams and students’ choice of university field of study.
The study uses data from a large number of high schools in Greece, where the performance in these high-stakes exams determines university admission. It measures teachers’ bias as the difference between a high school student’s school exam score and national exam score. It then defines a teacher bias measure at the class level by the difference between boys’ and girls’ average gap between the school score and the national score. The study links teachers over time to obtain a persistent teacher bias measure based on multiple classes, and to estimate the effect for later cohorts’ performance.
The study finds a very high correlation of within-teacher gender biases measured in different classes, which reveals high persistency in teachers’ gender favoritism behavior. It then finds substantial effects of these teacher biases on students’ school attendance and performance in university admission exams, quality of enrolled degree and the given field of study at the university. The study also finds that gender biases are more prevalent among low value added teachers, while the more effective teachers have an approximately neutral gender attitude. This suggests that less effective teachers can harm their students twice, by being a bad teacher and by discriminating against one of the genders.
Rigissa Megalokonomou is a Lecturer at the University of Queensland, which she joined in 2016. She is also a Research Affiliate at the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA). She is an applied economist and her research combines micro-econometric techniques with the collection of unique, large datasets in understanding policy-related questions. Her expertise is in the economics of education, labour economics and immigration economics. Her research focuses on understanding how social comparisons and interactions affect students’ productivity, educational choices and labour market outcomes. She is also working on understanding the causes of gender biases and discrimination. Rigissa graduated top of her BSc in Economics class at the University of Athens in Greece. She holds an MSc in Economics and Econometrics from the University of Essex, UK and a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Warwick, UK. Unicredit & Universities Young Economist Prize and Varvaresou Outstanding Research Award are amongst Rigissa’s varied honors and fellowships. Her research has been featured at The Conversation, LSE EUROPP and Epoch Times.
Co-author Victor Lavy, University of Warwick
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