In the first chapter of this dissertation, I examine the gender gap in primary school academic performance. While boys and girls have similar cognitive abilities, they are systematically assigned to different performance categories. Hypothesizing that this may be due to differences in non-cognitive skills, I construct a measure of these skills based on self-regulation and hyperactivity. Boys are reported to have lower levels of these skills, by both parents and teachers. Notably, I find that even when I have controlled for all skills, both cognitive and non-cognitive, boys are still more likely to be assigned to a lower performance category than girls.
In the second chapter, I estimate a production function for grade outcomes in the final year of high school, where boys continue to lag girls.. The focus of this essay is on the contribution of differences in non-cognitive skills in explaining this gap in grade outcomes. This research finds that, even controlling for the lower level of non-cognitive skills possessed by boys, gender still plays an important role in determining the overall grade in the final year of high school. By examining the production functions for girls and boys separately, it becomes apparent that much of the difference in grade outcomes can be attributed to the difference in the likelihood of academic advancement associated with increases in skills, particularly cognitive skills.
The participation rate of boys in post-secondary education lags that of girls substantially. One important factor in explaining this gender gap is high school performance, where there is a significant gender gap. However, there is substantial heterogeneity by gender in PSE participation within high school grade categories. The final chapter of this dissertation examines the interplay of gender, aspirations and skills in determining participation in post-secondary education, at ages 19 and 25, conditional on academic achievement in high school. The results of this research indicate that gender influences post-secondary education participation through a number of channels beyond high school grade. Notably, even after accounting for skills, aspirations, and high school grades, this research finds that there remains a significant role for gender.