Stem Degree Attainment and Gender Wage Gap in China: Segregation in Fields of Study or Heterogeneous Returns?

Bing Tian , Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Xiaogang Wu, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Despite a reversal of gender gap in access to higher education in China, the level of gender segregation in fields of study--with the key feature of female under-representation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) majors--kept rising. Tertiary education majors explain about 10% of the gender wage gaps for college graduates even after controlling for various confounding variables. The main channel for the effect of college major on gender wage gap is via the gender segregation in fields of study itself, rather than through heterogeneous returns for the same credential. Our work speaks to the debates about the relationship between industrialization and gender inequality: we conclude that industrialization process helps to reduce gender inequality in some aspects but fails in others, especially when gender difference is not caused by explicit discrimination. It also helps to explain the stalled growth of females' income relative to males', from the education domain.

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 Presented in Session 8. Economy, Labor Force, Education, & Inequality