As a science, economics is not gender neutral. Women and men do not choose to study the same fields in economics. Women graduates are statistically more likely to choose Labour/Health and Development/Growth/International and less likely to choose Econometrics, Micro Theory and Industrial Organisation, while men are more likely to choose Econometrics, Micro Theory and Macro/Finance.

Differences in field specialisation among women and men begin in graduate school. Over time women and men tend to diversify into different fields, which increases field segregation (from 13%, 2008-18, to 17%).

These are among the findings of research by Ronald Oaxaca and Eva Sierminska to be presented at the annual congress of the European Economic Association in August 2020.

They model the process of field specialisation in Economics using two frameworks. In the first one, the student identifies with multiple fields during graduate studies and in the second a primary field is selected. The first is modelled via a binomial logit and the second via a multinomial/conditional logit model. The predictive accuracy of both of these models strongly dominates the naïve, purely random choice models. 

In terms of determinants of the choices, field specific academic employment probabilities prove to be more important than field-specific salaries in determining the field choice, particularly for men and especially in the primary field model. 

Rankings of PhD departments and universities are significant factors in determining doctoral field specialisations. 

The decomposition techniques using both conceptual frameworks show that gender disparity in doctoral field specialisations would increase, ceteris paribus, by only equalising characteristics or by only equalising parameters. 

Future research will uncover which parameter and characteristics differences are driving field specialisation disparity.

Trends point to somewhat increasing gender disparity in doctoral field specialisation for the following reasons:

  • Women are under-represented in Econometrics and Micro and the trends for women entering these fields are negative.
  • Where women are over-represented such as Labour/Health the trends are positive for both men and women, and the trends in choosing Development/Growth/International are negative for both men and women.