Gendered Returns to the Study of High Level Mathematics and English for the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank
We focus on a previously unexamined stratification mechanism: ATAR-related returns to the study of advanced mathematics and advanced English courses taken towards the end of secondary education. First, we find, when holding prior achievement in mathematics constant, that girls boost their university entry rank (ATAR) more than boys by studying advanced mathematics in Year 12. However, the relative gain they obtain through the study of advanced mathematics over their same-sex peers in lower level courses is four times smaller than the advantage of boys over their peers. Using rational choice and vocational identity theories we propose two explanations of this pattern and discuss its potential to effectively discourage high-achieving girls from opting for higher level mathematics. Second, we examine the gendered patterns of ATAR returns to the study of basic and advanced English courses. The paper closes with two discussions. The first concerns the potential that within-gender differentials in ATAR returns to the study of advanced mathematics and English contribute to the reproduction of gender segregation at university.
The second reviews the reasons why understanding gendered returns to ATAR-related secondary study is impossible without the use of administrative data, which, in turn, on its own, is insufficient to consider the full range of sociologically relevant factors.