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The SSJDA Seminar

The SSJDA Seminar [January 17, 2023] "Meritocracy trap: How high-stakes admissions process exacerbates the gender difference in educational trajectories in Japan″

Date & Time
January 17 (Tue), 2023, 14:00-15:00
Meritocracy trap: How high-stakes admissions process exacerbates the gender difference in educational trajectories in Japan
Fumiya Uchikoshi (Princeton University)
Ono Hiroshi(Hitotsubashi Unversity)、Nakanishi Yuko(Musashi University)
In Japan, attending selective college matters for a range of socioeconomic returns, whereas women account for only one in five undergraduate students in the nation's top universities despite the gender gap convergence in overall college attendance. Drawing on 90 semi-structured interviews with high school students in 13 competitive high schools where almost everyone goes to a college, this study investigates institutional mechanisms, specifically the college entrance system and school-to-work transition, to explain why few women apply for selective colleges. Results indicate that female students tend to have more clear occupational plans and care more about how subjects they study in college are related to their future occupations than male students. By contrast, male students, who tend to be more ambiguous about their future educational or occupational plans, are influenced by teachers or parents to believe that the name of the school students will eventually attend helps them not to miss future job opportunities. Since the college entrance examination in Japan is typically department-specific for each university and retaking the high-stakes entrance exams for selective colleges the following year is not unusual due to limited application opportunities, female students, who tend to prioritize non-meritocratic criteria over school selectivity, end up with switching to less-selective schools without exam-retaking than men. I conclude that such a seemingly meritocratic selection through high-stakes exams may have an unintended consequence that maintains the underrepresentation of women in selective colleges.
Acknowledgement: This research is supported by Murata Science Foundation, Nakajima Foundation, Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number P2CHD047879.
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