An Exploration of the Under-representation of Women in Economics Degrees

This project aims to uncover the reasons why there is an under-representation of women in the UK in Economics focusing on higher education and comparing the case in China where there is an over-representation of women in economics. The project will utilise primary survey data.

Department: Economics

Supervised by: Fangya Xu

The Placement Project

Despite the high-paying future returns of an economics degree (Britton et al., 2020) and the significant differences in the views of male and female economists on important policy issues (May et al., 2014), fewer women are attracted to economics courses in countries like the US and the UK (Goldin, 2013; Crawford et al, 2018). Existing explanations include a small role of aptitude in math and economics, possible influence of role models as well as interest in the subject. However, there is also an observation of the over-representation of women in economics courses in China. This phenomenon does not seem to disappear among Chinese students studying economics in the UK. This project aims to explore the similarities and differences in the factors that explain gender imbalances in undergraduate economics courses in the UK and in China. By doing so, we, in the economics profession can learn more about the factors that play important roles in course enrolment choice and what need to be done, if necessary, to address such imbalances in the profession. At the local level (University, School and Department), the findings will help to inform strategies and policies regarding attractiveness of the subjects to different genders and different nationalities/ethnicities. Existing secondary data has little information on beliefs about and motivations for choosing degree subjects. Therefore, we will begin by surveying University of Reading students from a variety of subjects, including Chinese NUIST students, about their beliefs and motivations. The placement student on this project will identify the extent of such gender imbalances from the literature and help with collecting and analysing the primary survey data.


The student will: 1. Help run and design a student survey 2. Carry out a literature review summarising both theoretical underpinnings and empirical findings that exist, whilst the survey is live 3. Prepare and clean the data 4. Help analyse the data and write up key findings to compare the beliefs and motivations of UK and Chinese students

Skills, knowledge and experience required

• Knowledge of research methodology and data collection • Experience of literature searches and writing critical literature reviews • Proficient with Excel • Familiarity with statistical software such as Stata is desirable but not essential

Skills which will be developed during the placement

The student will have a chance to be involved in primary research from the design to the initial analysis under our supervision. The student will develop their research skills via their literature search, and develop their data handling and statistical software skills, plus their data analysis skills and report writing skills via the empirical work. They will also develop good time management, presentational skills, interpersonal skills via weekly meetings.

Place of Work

A desk will be provided within the department, though place of work is flexible.

Hours of Work

Full-time over 6 weeks or part-time over a period equivalent to 6 weeks

Approximate Start and End Dates (not fixed)

Monday 07 June 2021 - Tuesday 07 September 2021

How to Apply

The post will be advertised centrally on the UROP website between 22nd February and 9th April 2021. Students should submit their CV and Cover Letter directly to the Project Supervisor (click on supervisor name at the top of the page for email). Successful candidates will be invited for an interview.

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