Working Paper
Impact of female peer composition on gender norm perceptions and skills formation in secondary school

This paper examines peer effects on students’ gender norm perceptions and skills formation. I use a Uruguayan nationally representative survey of 9th grade students and exploit the quasi-random variation in the proportion of female peers across classes within schools for causal identification.

Results show that a higher exposure to female peers in the class leads to more progressive gender norms. Furthermore, these effects in gender perceptions are driven mostly by male students. Female students are also impacted by peers’ sex composition and significantly reduce the time devoted to domestic work and improve mathematics scores when exposed to more female peers.

No effects on language were found for either sex. Thus, exposure to female peers operates not only by reducing traditional gender perceptions but also by changing actual behaviour regarding housework and academic performance of female students.

My results suggest that short peer interactions in secondary school contexts may have substantial effects on reducing gender stereotypes and change gendered behaviours among students.