Gender streaming and prior achievement in high school science and mathematics

Naomi Friedman-Sokuler, Moshe Justman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Girls choose advanced matriculation electives in science and mathematics almost as frequently as boys, in Israel, but are very much under-represented in physics and computer science, and over-represented in biology and chemistry. We test the hypothesis that these patterns stem from differences in mathematical ability. Administrative data on two half-cohorts of Israeli eighth-grade students in Hebrew-language schools links standardized test scores in mathematics, science, Hebrew and English to their subsequent choice of matriculation electives. It shows that the gendered choices they make remain largely intact after conditioning on prior test scores, indicating that these choices are not driven by differences in perceived mathematical ability, or by boys’ comparative advantage in mathematics. Moreover, girls who choose matriculation electives in physics and computer science score higher than boys, on average. Girls and boys react differently to early signals of mathematical and verbal ability; and girls are less adversely affected by socioeconomic disadvantage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)230-253
Number of pages24
JournalEconomics of Education Review
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Rothschild Caesarea Fund; the technical support of the Central Bureau of Statistics, and in particular, Yaffa Shif, Edna Shimoni and David Gordon, for preparing the data and making it available to us; and the comments and suggestions of Peter Arcidiacono, Danny Cohen-Zada and three anonymous referees. We are also grateful for their helpful comments to seminar participants at Ben-Gurion University; the Marbach Conference on the Economics of Study Choices, 2014; the LEER Workshop on Education Economics 2015; and IWAEE 2015. None are responsible for our findings or conclusions.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Ltd


  • Comparative advantage
  • Gender gap in mathematics
  • Gender streaming
  • Israel
  • Science matriculation electives
  • Secondary school


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