Australian Health & Human Capital Economics Seminar | Overconfident boys: The gender gap in mathematics self-assessment by Nikki Schure
Welcome back to the Virtual Australian Health & Human Capital Economics Seminar Series. This event is organised by A/Professor Victoria Baranov (UMelb), Dr Sarah Walker (UNSW), Professor Stefanie Schurer (USyd), Dr Rebecca McKibbin (USyd), Professor Adeline Delavande (UTS), and Professor Brenda Gannon (UQ).
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Overconfident boys: The gender gap in mathematics self-assessment
University College London
Wednesday 29 March
3.00pm – 4.00pm
Abstract: It is well established that boys perceive themselves to be better in mathematics than girls, even when their ability may be the same. We examine the drivers of this male overconfidence in self-assessed mathematics ability using a longitudinal study of twins. This allows us to control for family fixed effects, i.e. shared genetic and environmental factors, and exploit the random assignment of the sex of one’s co-twin. Using measures of individual self-assessment in mathematics from childhood and adolescence, along with mathematics levels and test scores, cognitive skills, parent and teacher mathematics assessments, and characteristics of their families and siblings, we examine potential channels of the gender gap. Our results show that objective math abilities only explain a small share of the gender gap in self-assessed math abilities, and the gap is even larger within opposite-sex twin pairs. We find that having a confident male co-twin increases the confidence of boys but de- creases the confidence of girls, not just in math, but in their self-assessment of English and physical abilities as well. This phenomenon might offer an explanation for why the gender gap is still high in areas traditionally filled by confident men, like top jobs or STEM courses. We also find that parents are more likely to overestimate boys’ and underestimate girls’ mathematics abilities. Gender-biased parental assessments explain a large part of the gender gap in math self-assessment, highlighting the importance of the intergenerational transmission of gender stereotypes.