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Essays on gender and higher education

Contreras Silva, Valentina Del Carmen (2022) Essays on gender and higher education. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004501


I study horizontal inequalities in higher education, paying particular attention to gender imbalances. I evaluate policy interventions to understand how imbalances arise and how we can best correct them. Additionally, I study further consequences of the imbalances, primarily by analysing the interaction between advantaged and disadvantaged groups. My first paper explains university admission systems’ role in generating horizontal gender segregation in tertiary education. The paper exploits an admission system reform that improves application scores for students who graduate with a GPA higher than their high school average. I test whether the reform is neutral to gender and examine its effect on students’ career choices. I find that (1) the reform improves women’s application scores relative to men’s, and (2) that students who benefit from the reform are more likely to apply and enrol in better-paid fields. The second paper evaluates two gender affirmative action interventions implemented in engineering schools. First, I use a difference-in-difference approach to estimate the effectiveness of the policies. Then, a peer effects model to explore further consequences of the reform on students’ academic performance and drop-out rates. I find (1) that both interventions successfully increased female participation in engineering school, (2) they led to lower first-year drop-out rates among women, and (3) indirectly improved performance in collaborative projects for men and women. Finally, the third paper expands on the effects of peers on students’ outcomes by examining interactions in small teams. The chapter tests how gender composition and the share of non-native English speakers affect students’ academic performance, and perceptions of their team dynamics. We find (1) that an increased percentage of women improves students’ grades and perceptions of whether they felt heard during discussions, and (2) the achievement gap between native and non-native speakers diminishes when more women and non-native peers are in the team.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2022 Valentina Del Carmen Contreras Silva
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
Sets: Departments > Social Policy
Supervisor: Jenkins, Stephen P. and Özcan, Berkay

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