One focus of college diversity programs is the “gender gap”, especially in science and technology degree fields.

The Daily Caller writer Eric Owens reports on research findings from a California University, which seems to indicate the root cause of this gap may stem from high school mixed-gender classes and the interactions therein.

Two economics professors at the University of California, Davis have published a paper arguing that mixed-gender high schools are at least partially to blame for the persistent gender gap in the salaries of men and women.

In a working paper published by the nonpartisan National Bureau of Economic Research, economists Massimo Anelli and Giovanni Peri demonstrate that students who attended all-boys or all-girls high schools are considerably more likely to embrace college majors associated with high-paying jobs, such as medicine or engineering.

Also, women who attended a high school with a notably large percentage of other females are more likely to go on to choose the kinds of majors that tend to lead to high-paying jobs, the researchers found.

On the other hand, female students who attended ordinary mixed-gender schools are more likely to choose stereotypical majors that will likely lead to lower short-run earnings, lower long-run earnings and limited overall career potential.

For women, then, it seems one great way to combat the gender gap in earnings is to put more high school girls in classrooms with no boys — or at least substantially fewer boys.

The working paper, entitled “The Long Run Effects of High-School Class Gender Composition,” analyzes whether the gender composition of high school classmates affects the choice of major and, consequently, long-term earning potential.

The professors behind the study used a cohort of 30,000 Italian students who graduated from high school between 1985 and 2005 as their data set. They attempted to control for a number of factors besides gender, including the varying quality of high schools and individual skills. To control for family income, college exit scores were used as a proxy.

The researchers found that the gender ratio of high school classmates considerably and consistently affected the choices students later made about their majors.