Document Type

Senior Honors Project

Publication Date



This paper explores the importance of women-focused institutions in the choice of college major for women. There is ample literature showing that post-schooling specialization, such as occupation choice, has a significant impact on the gender wage gap (Petersen, Trond, and Laurie A. Morgan. 1995, Rita Asplund and Sami Napari 2011, Hsiung 2020, Sterling, Adina D., et al. 2020). However, there is less evidence in the existing literature on how pre-market human capital specialization, such as major choice impacts the gender wage gap. In this research I use institution level data by major from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) for the year 2016. The data includes 30 women-focused institutions, which is based on a 95% women fall enrollment threshold, and 2,159 co-educational institutions in the U.S. In my analysis I find a positive relationship between attending a women-focused institution and majoring in a male-dominated field. There are many endogenous and exogenous variables for which I have no control over that can be impacting my results. For example, not considering the impact that staff and faculty role modeling has on student major choice or the fact that students are choosing the college they attend which may imply inherit differences in people who chose to attend a women’s institution versus a co-educational institution may cause omitted-variable bias and thus my results cannot be interpreted as a causal relationship between women-focused institutions and choice of major, but the correlation suggests a need for future research. Women-focused institutions may be particularly well placed to encourage women to pursue fields that have been traditionally male-dominated.