IZA DP No. 12724: Gender Gaps in Education
published in “Handbook of Labor, Human Resources and Population Economics”, edited by Klaus F. Zimmermann, Springer, Cham, 2020, 1-31
This chapter reviews the growing body of research in economics which concentrates on the education gender gap and its evolution, over time and across countries. The survey first focuses on gender differentials in the historical period that roughly goes from 1850 to the 1940s and documents the deep determinants of the early phase of female education expansion, including pre-industrial conditions, religion, and family and kinship patterns. Next, the survey describes the stylized facts of contemporaneous gender gaps in education, from the 1950s to the present day, accounting for several alternative measures of attainment and achievement and for geographic and temporal differentiations. The determinants of the gaps are then summarized, while keeping a strong emphasis on an historical perspective and disentangling factors related to the labor market, family formation, psychological elements, and societal cultural norms. A discussion follows of the implications of the education gender gap for multiple realms, from economic growth to family life, taking into account the potential for reverse causation. Special attention is devoted to the persistency of gender gaps in the STEM and economics fields.