Date of Completion

Spring 5-6-2012

Thesis Advisor(s)

Susan Randolph

Honors Major



Economics | Other Economics


There is little doubt that education has a major effect on economic growth. Studies have traditionally used years of schooling (a quantitative variable) to measure education, but there has a shift towards using qualitative measures of education when trying to test the relationship between education and growth. In fact, there is strong evidence that the quality of education is much more important for economic growth than the quantity of education. The best way to measure the quality of education in a given country is to measure educational outcomes, and the best way to measure outcomes across countries is to look at students' performance on international tests.

Another variable that has been shown to affect economic growth is gender inequality, including gender inequality in education. Gender inequality in education likely affects education indirectly, through different channels such as by lowering the fertility rate, increasing the life span of the population, and increasing social cohesion. However, one possible channel that has not been widely explored is educational outcomes. Gender inequality in education may have a negative effect on educational outcomes, which in turn will have a negative effect on economic growth. There are many ways in which this might happen. For example, girls who are in a school system with high inequality might believe that since there is inequality in school, there will also be inequality in society as a whole, which would mean that there aren't many opportunities for them to be successful in life. This would subsequently decrease motivation and performance in school. Other examples include the possibility that more educated siblings can increase each other's educational success by supporting and helping one another, and the fact that a mother's education has been shown to have a positive effect on their children's health and nutrition.

In this paper I attempt to determine whether gender inequality in education does in fact have an effect on educational outcomes (and therefore an indirect effect on economic growth). I do this by using a cross-country regression with educational outcomes as the dependent variable and gender inequality in education as an independent variable. The data on educational outcomes comes from the PISA, TIMSS, and PIRLS international assessments that have taken place since 1995. The results of each assessment are scaled to an international average of 500, making the assessments directly comparable with one another. Other independent variables used include GDP per capita, expenditure on education, and student/teacher ratios.