The evidence presented in this paper suggests that a higher proportion of female students has positive effects on grades in STEM courses. Girls benefit from a higher proportion of girls in the classroom, or in other words, girls help girls. The size of the effects is however small. For boys, we find negative impacts on science grades from higher proportions of female students, in contrast with many results reported in the literature.
The results for choices reveal larger effects. For girls, the results show that having more female peers increases the likelihood of choosing male dominated tracks and STEM subjects in upper secondary school. For boys, we find that a higher proportion of girls in the class- room increases the likelihood of delayed start in upper secondary and also the choice of vo- cational track. The results are generally robust across different specifications controlling for time-varying school-quality indicators. The greater effects on choices than grades, especially for girls, suggest that the positive gender-peer effect on girls’ choices is not fully explained by positive peers effects on grades; in other words, girls’ choice of STEM courses is not fully explained by their improved performance in these courses relative to boys.
We find that causal mechanisms are related to an improved classroom environment. More students report that they feel well at school, do their homework and show up on time. All these classroom environment indicators correlate positively with school results for both girls and boys – and with the probability of choosing STEM courses in upper secondary. For boys, there are however some negative effects of an increased female share on performance that outweighs the positive impacts of a positive classroom environment. These effects are related to a higher probability of boys reporting that they disturb others.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Girls helping girls: the impact of female peers on grades and educational choices