Monday, 17 May 2021

UWE and the gender gap in economics (results pending?)

I've written a number of posts on the gender gap in economics (see the list of links at the end of this post for examples). Most of those posts review or outline the latest research results on the gender gap. To me, the most interesting research papers are those that use some experiment or quasi-experiment to try and address the gender gap, such as here and here. I hadn't realised at the time, but those two pieces of research linked as part of the same larger initiative, Undergraduate Women in Economics (UWE), run by Tatyana Avilova (Columbia University) and Claudia Goldin (Harvard), and funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

UWE is described in more detail in this 2018 NBER Working Paper by Avilova and Goldin. The paper first outlines the current state of the gender gap (illustrated using data from an unidentified college):

The Undergraduate Women in Economics (UWE) project seeks to uncover why women do not major in economics to the same degree as men and what can be done to change that...

Women who take Principles have a much higher probability of majoring in the subject if they obtain a high grade. That is not true for males, who major in economics almost independent of their grade in Principles...

As in most other institutions, the courses that follow Principles for the major at Adams are the intermediate theory courses and econometrics. There is no differential fall off by sex after students take these courses. The prime moments where female students relative to male students decide to major in economics are at the very start of their undergraduate life and just after taking Principles.

I think that accords somewhat with our experience at Waikato. However, we do need to account for what students are intending to major in when they begin their studies. At Waikato, students now have to elect their majors at the start of their degree (but can change them later). In my experience, at the end of ECONS101 (which is business economics, rather than principles of economics), more female students are going on to major in accounting, or marketing, rather than economics. There is a certain inertia when it comes to students' choice of major. If anything though, I think we gain additional female students at the end of ECONS101, relative to their initial choice of majors.

The paper then goes on to describe a randomised controlled trial (RCT) that UWE is undertaking, in order to determine what initiatives are most successful at reducing the gender gap. The initiatives that Avilova and Goldin identify to include in the RCT are:

1. Better Information: These interventions are to provide more accurate information about the application of economics and career paths open to economics majors. Interventions include informational sessions at the start of the academic year, having diverse speakers at events, and ensuring the presence of at least one female adviser.

2. Mentoring and Role Models: The intent is to create networks among students and to show support for their decision to major in the field. Potential interventions include mentoring freshmen and sophomores by upper-class students, providing more guidance to students in finding summer jobs and RA-ships in economics, organizing faculty-student lunches, and producing videos about the department and its students...

3. Instructional Content and Presentation Style: This category is meant to improve beginning economics courses and make them more relevant to a wider range of students. Examples include using more evidence-based material in gateway courses, and incorporating projects, such as those in the local community, into beginning and upper-level courses to allow students to apply their knowledge to current issues.

Note that the results described in the other two papers linked above relate to better information, and mentoring. So, we already have some results. The UWE RCT was supposed to report back in 2020, when the first cohort of students moving through (having started in 2015/16) completed their studies. There is no update on the UWE website on the status of the RCT. I suspect that the pandemic has created some minor havoc with the collection and interpretation of data. Hopefully, we'll hear something more from them soon!

Read more:

No comments:

Post a Comment