Underrepresentation of women in economics and why having more women economists benefit us all

18 Nov 2021

Three women sitting on sofa with laptopOver the past two decades, the proportion of women graduating in economics in a variety of countries has either decreased or remained stagnant. In the US, Lundberg and Stearns (2019) show that, between 1998 and 2017, the female share of senior economics majors has remained between 30% and 35%. In our recent paper (Megalokonomou et al. 2021), we show that in European countries during 2013-2018, on average, 38% of economics undergraduate students were women.

We examine cross-country differences in the underrepresentation of women in undergraduate economic degrees in Europe using detailed Eurostat data on the total number of graduates by gender, degree, country for years 2014-2018. We focus on 25 countries1 for which data are homogeneous and available for most of the period of study. 

Because in recent decades women are more likely to pursue a university degree than men, we rely on a within-country conversion rate based on the relative share of women enrolled in a particular field versus the total share of women graduating in the same country (Avilova and Goldin 2018). This conversion rate allows us to abstract from the possibility that women might be overrepresented in a particular field simply because there are more women attending university than men in most European countries.

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Contact: Dr Rigissa Megalokonomou.