Gender, peer effects, and college major and course selection
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What role do peer effects play in college math course taking and STEM persistence and major choice? This paper tests the hypothesis that peer effects affect female and male college students differently in their math course taking and major selection, widening the gender gap in math-based fields. I use the National Longitudinal Survey of Freshmen (NLSF) and employ two identification strategies. The first controls for baseline math skills as measured by high school achievement and freshmen course selection to examine how choices change as peer groups develop. A second strategy exploits exogenous variation in the gender composition of the university to examine how course taking and major choice depend on the university's gender composition. I find limited evidence that peer groups affect men and women differently with respect to the outcomes of interest. A higher proportion of female STEM majors increases the probability women are STEM majors and decreases the probability for men.