Do Gender Norms Affect Performance in Math? the Impact of Adolescents' and Their Peers' Gender Norms on Math Grades in Four European Countries

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 09:15
Location: Hörsaal 33 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Zerrin SALIKUTLUK, Mannheim Centre for European Social Research, Germany
Stefanie HEYNE, University of Bamberg, Germany
Although girls outperform boys in academic achievement, boys still have an advantage in

math and science in many countries. This gender imbalance is not only apparent in the

educational system, but also in the labor market, where women are underrepresented in careers

in science, math and technology. One possible explanation for the female disadvantage in

math and their underrepresentation in technical professions are culturally embedded beliefs

according to which girls have lower competencies in math and related disciplines. On the

one hand, these beliefs can lead to different subject specific investment strategies of female

and male students during school and result in gendered pathways throughout educational

and occupational careers. On the other hand, the presence of negative stereotypes about

female inferiority in math in classrooms can hamper girls’ performance via stereotype threat.

Accordingly, not only the own ideas and beliefs are important, but also the attitudes of the

classmates that reinforce behavior patterns of adolescents conforming the prevailing gender


Using data from the project Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Survey in Four European

Countries we investigate, whether students’ and their classmates’ attitudes towards gender

norms bring forward stereotypical math performance at school in England, Germany, the

Netherlands and Sweden. Our results indicate a distinct gender differential in favor of male

students in England and in Germany, while the gap is rather small in Sweden. However,

traditional gender norms of students and their classmates are negatively associated with girls’

math grade in all countries. Furthermore, no significant gender gap in math grades remains

when students’ and their classmates’ gender norms are considered in the analyses.