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1 Can Social Norms Explain Gender Differences in Educational Aspirations?

By  and Kristin J. KleinjansCharles C. Brown and Kristin J. Kleinjans


Despite a narrowing of the wage gap in the last decades, women still earn less than men (Francine D. Blau and Lawrence M. Kahn 2000). Part of this can be explained by different occupational choices. Although women face different real and perceived costs and benefits of educations (and, closely related, of occupations) than men, we do not know much about the reasons why women’s choices are different, both with respect to the field of study and the length of education. Social norms are a possible (partial) explanation for these differences. In this paper, I investigate the impact of gender on fulfilling one specific social norm: to achieve a higher socioeconomic status (SES) than one’s parents. Using a unique data set on educational aspirations of young adults from Denmark, I explore how the aspiration to fulfill this social norm differs by gender and parental SES. I find that at a lower parental SES, women are more likely to aspire to fulfill this social norm than men. At a higher parental SES, they are less likely to do so. I. Conceptual Framework Educational and occupational choices of parents and their children are highly correlated. Both nature and nurture seem to be involved in this (see Thomas Piketty 2000 for an overview), but the degree to which the link is causal remains controversial (see, e.g. Sandra E. Black et al. 2005)

Year: 2014
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