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The findings suggest less than half as many girls (1.2 per cent) as boys (3.8 percent) apply to study economics at university, while only 10 per cent of females enrol at university with an
A level in maths, compared to 19 per cent of males.
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Previous studies have shown women favour different policy decisions to men, with men more likely to see the costs associated with government interventions in the labour market, for example.
According to the researchers, the lack of women with degrees in economics could also be contributing to the gender pay gap, since economics graduates tend to receive relatively high average earnings.
Using a random sample of administrative data covering all university applications in 2008, the researchers found no discrimination against females in the university application process; once they've applied, females are as likely as males to receive an offer of a place on an economics course. There is also no gender difference in the likelihood of an applicant accepting or rejecting an offer.
Rather the data shows that girls are far less likely to apply to study economics than boys, and this could be partially due to the choices they make when choosing A levels.
"Girls are less likely to have A levels in Maths than boys, and this could represent an impediment to applying for an Economics degree," says Dr Tonin. "However, even among those who have studied Maths, females are still less likely to apply for an Economics degree than males, suggesting that differences in the choice of A level subjects cannot explain the whole gap."
The Sources of the Gender Gap in Economics Enrolment (PDF)
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Source: University of Southampton