Graduate Student Forum

Why Do Few Women Apply to Selective Colleges in Japan?: Explaining Horizontal Gender Stratification in Higher Education

Tuesday, 7 September 2021 | 9:00 - 9:45 (JST)
Zoom Meeting
  • Fumiya Uchikoshi Princeton University
  • Kenneth McElwain Professor, Institute of Social Science, The University of Tokyo
Event Description

Gender gap in higher education has reduced or reversed in many countries, while women are still underrepresented in selective institutions, and importantly, it varies by countries. This paper provides an institutional explanation that helps us to understand the cross-national variation in the gender gap in elite education by focusing on the Japanese case, an extreme outlier where women only account for one in five undergraduate students at top universities. Specifically, I hypothesize that, by reinforcing women’s risk-aversion, admission system characterized by high-stakes exams amplifies gender gap in elite education driven by women’s lower expected return to elite education. I test the hypothesis by examining the transition to post-secondary education among Japanese high-schoolers, an ideal case where application opportunities for selective institutions (national universities) are considerably limited compared to non-selective ones (private universities) and thus a number of high schoolers fail to pass the entrance exam and prepare for the exam next year (Ronin). Using longitudinal data that track high school students until graduation, I investigate whether and how male and female students, even if they have similar academic ability, choose their post-secondary education differently. Results show a significant gender gap in preparing for the exam next year. Since a majority of Ronin students aim to enter national universities, the gender gap in Ronin experience plays a critical role in explaining women’s underrepresentation in selective institutions. I also found that, among students who aim to enter national universities in their 1st to 2nd year in high school, women are more likely to choose risk-averting behaviors, like lowering the goal (aiming for junior colleges in their final year of high school) or applying to private universities via admission not based on the high-stakes exam. After describing the “leaky pipeline” of women in elite education, I conduct between/within gender analysis to explore potential factors that explain gender differences in college application behaviors.

About the Speaker

Fumiya Uchikoshi is a PhD student in Sociology at Princeton University. His research interests include family demography, social stratification, and East Asia. His current research examines diverging family behaviors and their impact on social inequality and the consequences of newly emerging behaviors on future life course outcomes in familistic societies.