June 2020

IZA DP No. 13396: The Effect of Peer Gender on Major Choice in Business School

Business degrees are popular and lead to high earnings. Female business graduates, however, earn less than their male counterparts. These gender differences can be traced back to university, where women shy away from majors like finance that lead to high earnings. In this paper, we investigate how the gender composition of peers in business school affects women's and men's major choices and labor market outcomes. We find that women who are randomly assigned to teaching sections with more female peers become less likely to choose male-dominated majors like finance and more likely to choose female-dominated majors like marketing. After graduation, these women end up in jobs where their earnings grow more slowly. Men, on the other hand, become more likely to choose male-dominated majors and less likely to choose female-dominated majors when they had more female peers in business school. However, men's labor market outcomes are not significantly affected. Taken together, our results show that studying with more female peers in business school increases gender segregation in educational choice and affects labor market outcomes.