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
  • Economics Research, Bocconi in the European Top 5

    In the Tilburg University ranking of the best universities for scientific performance in economics research, Bocconi is 4th in Europe, 1st in continental Europe, and 18th in the world  

  • Lockdown Measures Are Not the Only Things Keeping Us at Home

    Two Bocconi MSc students, in a team with two Oxford PhD students, had their paper published in two prestigious outlets. Observing mobility data from mobile devices, they found that people in the US often distanced themselves before official measures were imposed in counties with high education, high trust in science and high income  


  May 2020  
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
        1 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 30 31


All Seminars
  • Imperfect Macroeconomic Expectations: Evidence and Theory

    Marios Angeletos (MIT) Paper


  • The Commission's proposals for the Multiannual Financial Framework and the Recovery Instrument
    The EU Response to the Covid Crisis

    Chair Eleanor Spaventa, Bocconi University Speakers Mario Monti, President, Bocconi University; Catherine De Vries, Bocconi University; Guido Tabellini, Bocconi University To register, please contact