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Promoting Female Participation in Undergraduate Economics

Paper Session

Friday, Jan. 3, 2020 8:00 AM - 10:00 AM (PST)

Marriott Marquis, Marina Ballroom G
Hosted By: American Economic Association
  • Chair: Tatyana Avilova, Columbia University

What UWE Did for Economics

Tatyana Avilova
,
Columbia University
Claudia Goldin
,
Harvard University

Abstract

Men outnumber women as undergraduate economics majors by three to one nationwide. Even at the best research universities and liberal arts colleges men outnumber women by two to one or more. The Undergraduate Women in Economics Challenge was begun in 2015 as an RCT with 20 treatment schools and at least 30 control schools to evaluate whether better course information, mentoring, encouragement, career counseling, and more relevant instructional content could move the needle. The students who were exposed to the treatments as freshmen are beginning to graduate in the Spring 2019. We present preliminary results on the impact of the UWE Challenge interventions on student enrollment in introductory economics courses, intermediate economics courses and the number of majors in economics by gender.

Motivations to Major in Economics

Todd Pugatch
,
Oregon State University
Elizabeth Schroeder
,
Oregon State University

Abstract

Why do students major in Economics? Why is the proportion of women who study Economics so low? This study will assess whether students respond to messages about majoring in Economics, and whether this response varies by student gender. The experiment will occur in two phases. In the first phase, we will randomly assign students currently enrolled in Economics Principles courses to receive messages emphasizing the rewarding careers available to Economics majors or the financial returns to the major. These groups will be compared to students receiving no such messages and to a group receiving a "placebo" message with basic information about the major. In the second phase, all students receiving a grade of B- or better will receive a message after the course is over encouraging them to major in Economics. A randomly chosen subset of these students will receive a message encouraging them to persist in Economics even if their grade was disappointing. Results will shed light on student motivations to major in Economics, which messages can change their choices, and whether female students respond disproportionately to certain messages about the major.

Freshmen Teachers and College Major Choice: Evidence from a Random Assignment in Chile

Mohit Karnani
,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Abstract

We exploit the random assignment of freshmen courses in a large Chilean university to identify the causal effect of teachers and their qualitative characteristics over students' major choice. Using ten years of administrative records, with multiple recurrent instructors per semester, we establish what makes students from the "Economics and Business" track chose between an "Economics" or a "Business" major. Our fixed-effects estimates suggest that first-semester economics instructors may account for 15-22% of the probability of choosing Economics as a major. Leveraging a standardized qualitative survey, we also identify what characteristics of these teachers make students more prone to majoring in Economics. These results are robust to different specifications, and falsification tests confirm our findings.

Finance and Economics Women (FEW) Network: Encouraging and Engaging Women in Undergraduate Programs

Joy Buchanan
,
Samford University
Darwyyn Deyo
,
San Jose State University

Abstract

We report a method of increasing engagement of undergraduate female students in finance and economics programs through a national intercollegiate club network. Although female enrollment averages over 50% percent at four year university institutions, we find only about one third female representation in our economics and related classes. These estimates reflect issues also present at the graduate level and professional level of economics. Further, there are no previously existing intercollegiate undergraduate institutions on campus which connect female students in these majors or promote the participation of female students in the economics or finance majors. The Finance and Economics Women’s Network (FEW) supports currently enrolled students in finance and economics courses, as well as potential and declared majors and minors. The undergraduate clubs provide encouragement to students who typically find themselves to be a minority in their classes and professions, and students have developed leadership and organizational skills through their involvement. In addition, the club infrastructure supports alumni engagement, skill-oriented workshops, panel events, and forums for guest speakers in order to aid the transition from academia to careers and graduate coursework. The network is supported by the faculty at the university level as well as local community professionals. At present, the network has been successfully piloted at both a public university and a private university.
Discussant(s)
Cher Li
,
Colorado State University
Kasey Buckles
,
University of Notre Dame
Danila Serra
,
Texas A&M University
Shelly Lundberg
,
University of California-Santa Barbara
JEL Classifications
  • A2 - Economic Education and Teaching of Economics
  • I2 - Education and Research Institutions