The Influence of Others on University Study Choices

The Influence of Others on University Study Choices


College major choices account for 30% of gender pay gap among graduate workers. Females tend to opt for humanities, while males prefer scientific degree courses that enables to better economic outcomes. Researchers have investigated the determinants of these choices in order to find a way to counterbalance them. Laboratory experiments conducted by behavioral economists have shown, for instance, that women shy away from competition with men. This could be the reason why female students, after having experienced competition in high school, stay away from prevalently male scientific degree courses.
A zero cost policy of classroom gender composition could therefore be a way to reduce the gender pay gap. Massimo Anelli tested this theory with Giovanni Peri on a longitudinal data set of 30,000 Italian students who graduated in 1985-2005.
“We found that gender composition of peers in high school do not affect the choice of college major by female students”, Massimo Anelli says. “Only male students attending a high school class with 80% or more male classmates have a probability of choosing a prevalently male college major between 6 and 15% higher than the average”.
This could be explained by the way female students and male students form their networks of friends. The former prefer strong ties with a few people, regardless of the number of other girls in the classroom; male students tend to expand their social network and this attitude ends up influencing their faculty choice.
“This is not necessarily good news. The influence of the social network pushes male students to enroll in majors too complicated for them. They end up graduating with bad grades or dropping out of school before completing their degree. The increased likelihood of choosing prevalently male majors does not translate into any significant effect on income of male individuals who attended a high school class with more than 80% of male peers. Segregating classes by gender would be ineffective or even harmful”.

Read more about this topic:
Nicola Gennaioli. The naive illusion of human rationality
Anger Can Hurt Us and Others
Thinking About It Beats Repeating It
Other Peoples’ Choices Make Organizations Similar
Making Rational Decision Is Good for Performance
How the Axes of Political Belonging Change
Political Corruption Scars Young Voters Forever

by Claudio Todesco


All News
  • Research and Policy to Tackle Climate Change

    Bocconi students on the economics seminars organized by IGIER. In the third article of the series, Federico Scabbia reports on the work of Solomon Hsiang, Berkeley University, Christian Gollier, Toulouse University, and Tom van Ierland, DG Climate Action  

  • Why American Deterrence May Not Work

    In a world with many well armed and unpredictable countries, tough talk from the US is riskier than ever  


  November 2020  
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29


All Seminars
  • Uncertainty and Information Acquisition: Evidence From Firms and Consumers

    Christopher Roth, Warwick In order to receive the invitation link for the online streaming, please contact


  • Power of Words: How Do Employee Narratives Shape Our Understanding of Managerial Incompetence?

    Amit Nigam, Class Business School

    Webinar joint with CERGAS