When Sarah Meets Lawrence

The Effect of Coeducation on Women's Major Choices

by Avery Calkins, Ariel J. Binder, Dana Shaat, Brenden Timpe

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We leverage variation in the timing of U.S. women's colleges' transitions to coeducation to study how exposure to male peers affects women's human capital investments. Our event-study analyses of newly collected historical data find a 3:0 percentage-point (30%) decline in the share of women majoring in STEM after ten years of coeducation. We find little evidence that coeducation altered course offerings, class sizes, competitiveness of STEM classrooms, or the composition of the female student body. Extrapolation of our main estimate suggests that exposure to male peers in college can explain 36% of the contemporary gender gap in STEM.

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