Effect of Beliefs and Gender Roles on Girls' Math Education

Project: Research project

Project Details


Despite recent progress, in developing countries, girls continue to face significant barriers to ed-ucational opportunities compared to boys. Moreover, even if girls attend school, they have very different educational outcomes, including a lower participation rate and lower achievement in math or math-related fields (UNESCO, 2017). For example, in Ghana, while the gender gap in educa-tional attainment is closing, a large gender gap exists across fields of study in senior secondary school; in home economics, 89.6% of students are girls while in general science, only 34% are girls (Ministry of Education, 2013). Understanding the determinants for the low participation and achievement gap is important for designing effective policies to increase the educational investments for girls. While there are many possible factors, such as personal interest, credit constraints and societal norms, a growing literature suggests that schooling choices of girls in Ghana are particularly influenced by beliefs about the innate math ability of girls as well as the role of women in the labor market and in the society.For example, survey responses of secondary school students suggest that societal beliefsabout girls having low math ability played an important role in dissuading girls from pursuing math education (Agbley, 2015). Similarly, Ajayi and Buessing (2015) provides suggestive evidence that girls may have lower academic performance and pursue traditionally female-dominated courses of study because of social norms, not because of their innate academic ability. Can providing information about potential abilities and returns to math education in terms of labor market opportunities and benefits to family well-being affect the education investments of girls? If these beliefs about ability and future roles for girls in the society resulted from a lack of information, then providing information may change beliefs and, potentially, increase invest-ments in math education for girls. In particular, if there exist strong societal norms over the role ofwomen, investments may not respond to information about girls’ abilities and labor market opportunities, but only to information about the benefits of studying math on the family well-being. Our research will investigate how providing the three different types of information can affect investments in math education in terms of time, schooling expenditures, parental encouragement, girls’ aspirations, secondary school enrollment rate, and the field of study. This analysis is the first to assess the effectiveness of providing information while taking into account the potential role gender norms may play on educational decisions.
Effective start/end date5/31/181/31/20


  • Harvard University (Letter 10/30/18 // Letter 10/30/18)
  • Child Relief International Foundation (Letter 10/30/18 // Letter 10/30/18)


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