The Yale Undergraduate Research Journal


The gender wage gap in the United States is a well-known phenomenon and researchers across many disciplines have tried to pinpoint its cause. One popular explanation is the gender gap in college major choice; however, it is still unknown why women tend to major in so-called soft sciences and men in hard sciences. This paper builds upon Speer (2017)’s work studying the gender gap in major choice as explained by test scores. Rather than utilizing OLS regressions, I employ a Kitagawa-Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition method, which also shows how unspecified discrimination works for or against women (or men) in how much their test scores contribute to their major choice. Utilizing the ASVAB pre-college test scores, I find that there is an overall larger unexplained gap when using the male counterfactual in the Kitagawa-Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition versus the female counterfactual regarding the explanatory power of test scores for various majors. This suggests the unexplained difference in how test scores predict college major stems from unspecified discrimination in favor of men.