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Targeted Encouragement and the College Major Gender Gap
Last registered on March 01, 2021

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Targeted Encouragement and the College Major Gender Gap
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0007229
Initial registration date
February 27, 2021
Last updated
March 01, 2021 10:40 AM EST
Location(s)

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Primary Investigator
Affiliation
Harvard University
Other Primary Investigator(s)
Additional Trial Information
Status
On going
Start date
2021-02-12
End date
2022-03-31
Secondary IDs
Abstract
Although educational attainment gender gaps have reversed in most high-income countries and Latin America (Goldin, 2002; Goldin, Katz, & Kuziemko, 2006; Duryea, Galiani, Nop o, & Piras, 2007), a high degree of occupational segregation remains: men still dominate highly profitable fields like science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) even when controlling for measured ability (Schneeweis & Zweimuller, 2012). Preferences in the field of study can be shaped by individuals' self-efficacy beliefs. This could be causing part of the STEM gender gap: holding performance constant, women have been found to be less confident about their own ability in math and science than men (Bordalo, Coffman, Gennaioli, & Shleifer, 2019). The hypothesis of this study is that increasing students' confidence in their ability can have effects on their college application and enrollment decisions and that this effect can be different for men than for women.

In the intervention used in this study (implemented by the Chilean Ministry of Education), top-performing students in STEM (math + science) and Humanities (language + history) tests were randomly assigned to get an encouragement message that congratulated them for their high scores and asked if they have considered STEM/Humanities majors. Students that excelled in the four tests received an encouraging message that congratulated them and mentions that with such high scores many options are available, without specifying a particular subject area. The experiment allows me to test how encouragement affects students' college enrollment decisions. By measuring gender differences in this effect, I will expand the literature that studies how students make their major choice, testing an intervention that can potentially improve enrollment. Furthermore, I will contribute to expanding the literature on women and STEM by proposing an intervention that could help close the STEM gap in college major choice.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Ramirez-Espinoza, Fernanda. 2021. "Targeted Encouragement and the College Major Gender Gap." AEA RCT Registry. March 01. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.7229-1.0.
Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
In this intervention, the Ministry of Education sent an information card to students via email at the time they got their University Admission Test results. A randomized sample of the top-performing students in STEM (math + science) and Humanities (language + history) tests got an encouragement message that congratulates them for their high scores and asks if they have considered STEM/Humanities majors. Students that excelled in the four tests received an encouraging message that congratulated them and mentions that with such high scores many options are available, without specifying a particular subject area.
Intervention Start Date
2021-02-12
Intervention End Date
2021-02-14
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
My key outcomes are enrollment in higher education and major choice. Therefore, my primary outcomes are: Higher-Education Enrollment, Higher-Education STEM Major choice, Higher-Education Humanities Major choice, Higher-Education STEM Application, Higher-Education Humanities Application
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
My secondary outcomes are Higher-Education Information Search, Interest in relative performance, Higher-Education dropout, Admission test re-take. I will look for heterogeneity in treatment by gender and the ex-ante probability of enrollment.
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
The set of participants that were eligible to get the encouragement message were all students that took the university admission test in December 2020 and performed in the top 30- percent of STEM tests, humanities tests, or all four tests. To get the final samples, percentiles of STEM, humanities, and all tests within a students’ region 1 are calculated. If a student took all the tests and their average total score was in the top 30 percent for their region, they were assigned to the “All” group. All the students that were not in the “All” group but scored in the top 30 percent in either the STEM or humanities tests for their region are assigned to the “STEM” and “Humanities” groups. If students do not belong to the three previous groups, they belong to the “Other” group.
No students in the “Other” group were assigned to treatment. For the remaining three groups (All, STEM, and Humanities), fifty percent of eligible students are assigned to the treatment within each group. The remaining fifty percent was assigned to the control group
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Randomization done in office by a computer
Randomization Unit
Individual.
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
230,000 students (approximately)
Sample size: planned number of observations
230,000 students (approximately)
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
~16,000 students (Treatment STEM), ~13,000 student (Treatment Humanities), ~8,000 students (Treatment All), ~193,000 students (Control)
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan

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