The Importance of Self-Confidence in Explaining Subject Choices in High School

Rapoport Benoît, Université Paris 1
Thibout Claire , Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne

Educational choices remain incredibly gendered. This paper investigates whether the subject choices of Australian students in high school are influenced by gender differences in test scores and beliefs about abilities. We use the 2009 cohort of the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY), which contains both students’ PISA test scores and rich information about their self-perceptions in their own abilities compared with other students in English/literacy, mathematics, and science. This allows us to build a measure of over/under-confidence in all three subjects. Our analysis also controls for the efforts exerted by the students in each subject. We show that girls slightly under-estimate themselves in English compared to boys, however this is not the case in mathematics or science. But when choosing their set of subjects, girls are more sensitive than boys to their confidence in English. Failing to control for self-confidence leads to biased coefficients of the PISA scores. On the contrary, omitting effort does not change the results, suggesting that it is not an important source of endogeneity with respect to test scores.

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 Presented in Session P3. Poster Session Migration, Economics, Environment, Methods, History and Policy