Cognitive gender differences contribute to horizontal gender segregation in education and occupation

Serhiy Dekhtyar, Karolinska Institutet
Daniela Weber, Wittgenstein Centre (IIASA, VID/ÖAW, WU) and International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Jonas Helgertz, Lund University
Agneta Herlitz, Karolinska Institutet

Many nations work towards eliminating gender segregation in educations and occupations. By analyzing information on complete cohorts of Swedish men and women born in 1977-1979 extracted from the Swedish Interdisciplinary Panel, we find that the uneven distribution of men and women in education and occupation is partly a result of the uneven distribution of cognitive strengths between men and women: in school, girls tend to be better at language and life science, whereas boys have a slight edge in technical and numerical subjects. These differences in cognitive abilities result in men and, to a lesser extent, women selecting career paths suited to their particular cognitive profiles, this way perpetuating gender segregation in education and occupation. Our results suggest that some horizontal gender segregation in education and occupation is due to individuals making choices based on their cognitive strengths.

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Presented in Session 110: Education and gender