Unconscious biases held by elementary school teachers may deter girls from studying math and science, the New York Times reports.
A study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that when students' math exams were graded by someone who knew their names rather than by someone blinded to their identities, boys fared better than girls. When those same students then reached junior high and high school, the girls who had been discouraged by teachers early in their schooling were less likely to take advanced math and science courses.
The researchers surmise that the teachers overestimate the boys' abilities while underestimating the girls', the Times says. The effect didn't carry over to other subjects like English.
"The most surprising and I think important finding in the paper is that a biasing teacher affects the work choices students make and whether to study math and science years later," co-author Victor Lavy from the University of Warwick tells the Times.