The downside of good peers: How classroom composition differentially affects men's and women's STEM persistence

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Labour Economics, ISSN: 0927-5371, Vol: 46, Page: 211-226

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Stefanie Fischer
Elsevier BV
Economics, Econometrics and Finance; Business, Management and Accounting
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This paper investigates whether class composition can help explain why women are disproportionately more likely to fall out of the “STEM” pipeline. Identification comes from a standardized enrollment process at a large public university that essentially randomly assigns freshmen to different mandatory introductory chemistry lectures. Using administrative data, I find that women who are enrolled in a class with higher ability peers are less likely to graduate with a STEM degree, while men's STEM persistence is unaffected. The effect is largest for women in the bottom third of the ability distribution. I rule out that this is driven solely by grades.