Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Planting the Seeds for Success: Why Women in STEM Do Not Stick in the Field

Jiang, Xuan (2018): Planting the Seeds for Success: Why Women in STEM Do Not Stick in the Field.

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Women are underrepresented in both STEM college majors and STEM jobs. Even with a STEM college degree, women are significantly less likely to work in a STEM occupation than their male counterparts. This paper investigates whether men and women possess different ability distributions and examines how much the gender gap in major choice and job choice can be explained by gender differences in ability sorting. I use Purdue University's administrative data that contain every Purdue student's academic records linked to information on their first job. I apply an extended Roy model of unobserved heterogeneity allowing for endogenous choice with two sequential optimizing decisions: the choice between a STEM and non-STEM major and the choice between a STEM and non-STEM job. I find that abilities are significantly weaker determinants of major choice for women than for men. High-ability women give up $13,000{$20,000 in annual salary by choosing non-STEM majors. Those non-STEM high-ability women make up only 5.6% of the female sample, but their total gains|had they made the same decision as men|explain about 9.4% of the gender wage gap. Furthermore, the fact that female STEM graduates are less likely to stay in STEM is unrelated to the differences in ability sorting. Instead, women's home region may be important in women's job decisions; female STEM graduates who return to their home state are more likely to opt out of STEM.

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