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The occupational returns to field of study: a gender perspective

Diana Galos () and Nevena Kulic ()
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Diana Galos: European University Institute
Nevena Kulic: University of Konstanz

No 78, Working Papers from AlmaLaurea Inter-University Consortium

Abstract: Unequal gender outcomes in occupational success unravel through different channels in higher education. Using the AlmaLaurea dataset with 80% of Italian graduates and 98 fields of study, this article investigates whether men and women receive similar returns when choosing the same field of study, net of their ability and occupation. A bi-dimensional approach is applied to the topic by relying on Kanter’s theory of relative numbers and the status theory of gender, therefore examining both the quantitative and qualitative differences between fields. The results show that the higher share of women in fields of study is not necessarily associated with better outcomes: the most gender ‘balanced’ subfields of study are the most unequal in terms of income, followed by employment and authority. Except for authority, token women in fields of study with a lower proportion of women (15–20 percent) tend to be more similar to men in their occupational achievement, while the presence of a large majority of women tends to also be associated with lower gender gaps, indicating that the relationship between the gender composition of the field of study and the gender gap is inverse U-shaped. Separate analyses show that the gender gap on the labour market is more pronounced in nurturing fields, despite that they are perceived to appeal to the ‘natural’ abilities of women and net of the field gender composition. Moreover, structural advantage of men in these fields stands out in income and authority, and comparably less in employment.

Keywords: gender; fields of study; graduates; labour market; status characteristics theory (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 25
Date: 2020-05
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