This study offers a structural explanation for the female advantage in college completion rates, stressing the importance of horizontal sex segregation across fields of study in shaping educational outcomes and gender inequality. Results from a nationally representative sample of students who matriculated at 4-year institutions in 1995 reveal a high level of gender segregation by field of study. Field of study creates the immediate learning environment for the students and between-major differences in academic and social arrangements-such as different grading norms, academic intensity, size and social support-shape both female and male performance. We find that this variation is a key factor in the creation of the female advantage in grades and graduation likelihood. The simulation we conduct demonstrates that if sex integration were achieved and both groups had the male distribution of majors, the female advantage in graduation likelihood and grades, which remains after socioeconomic and academic factors are netted out, would be substantially reduced.
- Academic achievements
- Higher education: the female advantage
- Horizontal sex segregation