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Alex Eble, Assistant Professor of Economics and Education, Columbia University
Justin Sandefur, Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development
How are beliefs about gender differences formed, and how do they affect children’s aspirations and academic performance? In this talk, Alex Eble will discuss recent work (co-authored with Feng Hu of the University of Science and Technology Beijing) on perceived gender gaps in mathematics in Chinese middle schools.
Eble and Hu show that children absorb gender stereotypes via exposure to peers whose parents believe boys are better than girls at mathematics – and that exposure leads to real learning gains for boys and losses for girls. Conversely, they show that being randomly assigned a female math teacher generates large gains in aspirations, investment, and test scores for low perceived ability girls, and moderate harms for low perceived ability boys. Together, their results emphasize the importance of belief formation in the early stages of life and highlight two crucial sources of information that factor into this process.