The Gender Gap in Student Performance: The Role of the Testing Environment
SpeakerJose Montalban Castilla (Paris School of Economics)
LocationTinbergen Institute Amsterdam
Date and time
October 15, 2019
16:00 - 17:15
There is a substantial body of literature that focuses on measuring how gender differences in cognitive abilities and gender-stereotyping norms impact the gender gap in student performance. However, little attention has been devoted to investigate how the organization of student testing may influence the relative performance of male and female students. This paper analyzes the gender gap in test scores that arises as a result of differential responses by boys and girls to the testing environment. To that end, we exploit a unique randomized intervention on the entire population of students in grades 6 and 10 in the Region of Madrid (Spain). The intervention assigned schools to either internally or externally administered a standardized test. We find that girls outperform boys in subjects that are traditionally female-dominated (Spanish and English), and boys outperform girls in subjects that are traditionally male-dominated (Math and Science). Results show that girls do consistently worse than boys in exams that are externally administered, increasing and narrowing the gender gaps in subjects that are male-dominated and female-dominated respectively. Additional survey evidence on stress, self-confidence, and effort suggests that lower relative female performance in externally administered tests results from a lower ability to cope with stressful situations as a result from less familiarity with the testing environment.
Joint with Almudena Sevilla.