Centre for Development Economics,
Delhi School of Economics
Institute of Economic Growth


What Can(not) Explain the Gap? Evidence and Decomposition of Gendered Stream Choice in India


Komal Sahai (Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi)

This is a joint work with Tridip Ray (ISID), and Arka Roy Chaudhari (Shiv Nadar University)

Thursday, 8 July 2021 at 3:30 PM

Gendered pattern in stream choices is well established in the education literature. Males are overrepresented in the mathematically oriented courses while females are more likely to opt for life sciences and non-science courses. We use three cohorts of student results data from the Central Board of Secondary Education, the single largest education board with an all-India presence, to first quantify and subsequently decompose the gender gap in the very first stream choices made by students at the school level in India. We use our rich dataset to explore a large set of explanatory factors proposed in the literature to explain the gender gap, namely, student ability, attributes of cohort peers, role models, “chilly” climate, and socioeconomic characteristics of students. We employ a novel way to use a student’s immediate seniors in schools to elicit the role model and “chilly” climate aspects of stream choice. Our measure of own gender role models and that of the expected “chilliness” of the climate in a prospective course account for the largest portion of the observed gender gap. Together, they explain 31% of the gap in the take-up of Mathematics and 18% in Biology. On the other hand, ability related attributes explain under 10% of the gender gap, whereas attributes of the cohort peers do not explain any statistically significant portion of this gap.

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