Nudging gender desegregation: a field experiment on the causal effect of information barriers on gender inequalities in higher education
GB : Routledge
online - p.
field experiment, gender segregation, higher education, returns to education
In this article, we propose and test a novel explanation for gender segregation in Higher Education that focuses on the misperceptions of economic returns to fields of study. We frame this explanation within the literature emphasizing the role of gender-stereotypical preferences and occupational plans, and we argue that counselling activities in school can play a crucial role in either reinforcing or countering the weight of these expressive mechanisms relative to more instrumental considerations involving occupational prospects of different fields. In particular, we suggest that the availability of reliable, ready-to-use information on these prospects enhances the probability that students, particularly females, opt for more rewarding fields. To test this argument, we present the results of a field experiment conducted in Italy that confronted high school seniors with detailed information concerning returns to tertiary education and field of study differentials, and we assess how girls and boys reacted to this counselling intervention.