Does the Girl Next Door Affect Your Academic Outcomes and Career Choices?
AbstractGender peer effects are potentially important for optimally organizing schools and neighborhoods.
In this paper, we examine how the gender of classmates and neighbors affects a variety of high
school outcomes and choice of university major. Given that students are assigned to schools
based on proximity from their residential address, we define as neighbors all same-cohort peers
who attend any other school within a 1-mile radius of one’s school. To control for potentially
confounding unobserved characteristics of schools and neighborhoods that might be correlated
with peer gender composition, we exploit within-school and -neighborhood idiosyncratic variation
in gender composition share across consecutive cohorts in the 12th grade. Using data for the
universe of students in public schools in Greece between 2004 and 2009, we find that a higher
share of females in a school or neighborhood improves both genders’ subsequent scholastic
performance, increases their university matriculation rates, renders them more likely to enroll in
an academic university than a technical school, and affects their choice of university study. In
addition, we find that only females are more likely to enroll in STEM degrees and target more
lucrative occupations when they have more female peers in school or neighborhood. Based on
our back-of-the-envelope calculations, a 10 percentage point increase in the proportion of females
in a school or neighborhood reduces the gender gap in STEM enrollments by 2% and 3%,
respectively. We also find that (1) neighborhood peer effects are as large as school peer effects,
and (2) the effects are nonlinear-namely, the effects are larger for school and neighborhood
cohorts with a large majority of female peers.