Journal of Population Economics

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 455–500 | Cite as

Closing or reproducing the gender gap? Parental transmission, social norms and education choice

  • Maria Knoth HumlumEmail author
  • Anne Brink Nandrup
  • Nina Smith
Original Paper


Over the last decade, the economic literature has increasingly focused on the importance of gender identity and sticky gender norms in an attempt to explain the persistence of the gender gaps in education and labour market behaviour. Using detailed register data on the latest cohorts of Danish labour market entrants, this paper examines the intergenerational correlation in gender-stereotypical choice of education. Although to some extent picking up inherited and acquired skills, our results suggest that if parents exhibit gender-stereotypical labour market behaviour, children of the same sex are more likely to choose a gender-stereotypical education. The associations are strongest for sons. Exploiting the detailed nature of our data, we use birth order and sibling sex composition to shed light on the potential channels through which gender differences in educational preferences are transmitted across generations. Our findings support the hypothesis that human capital transfers and intra-family resource allocation are important mechanisms. We find no evidence suggesting that school and/or residential location are important drivers of the documented intergenerational correlations.


Intergenerational transmission Gender differences Gender identity Social norms 

JEL classification

I23 J16 J24 



The authors are grateful for valuable comments from Helena Skyt Nielsen, Marc Gurgand, Peter Fredriksson and Marianne Simonsen as well as participants at the 2016 ESPE Conference and numerous seminar participants at Aarhus University. In addition, we thank two anonymous referees for their many constructive comments.

Compliance with ethical standards

This study has no external funding from outside Aarhus University.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Economics and Business EconomicsAarhus UniversityAarhus VDenmark
  2. 2.IZABonnGermany
  3. 3.CESifo and RWIBonnGermany

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