Sex differences in academic strengths contribute to gender segregation in education and occupation: A longitudinal examination of 167,776 individuals

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


We investigate whether sex differences in academic strengths have an impact on society by affecting the career choices made by women and men. By longitudinally following 167,776 individuals from Sweden, we found that (1) more 16-year old girls than boys had a relative strength in verbal/language school subjects than in technical/numerical ones, whereas more boys than girls had a relative strength in technical/numerical school subjects than in verbal/language ones; (2) when these girls and boys attained higher education and entered employment, they largely pursued careers cognitively matching their initial academic strengths; (3) while individuals generally made career choices in line with their academic strengths, men and women matched on these strengths nevertheless made rather distinct career choices, in particular women with technical/numerical strengths who largely avoided careers demanding these skills; (4) sex distribution in education and occupation was related to the extent these career paths were perceived as either numerically or verbally demanding. Taken together, although gender segregation is to some extent associated with individuals making choices matching their academic strengths, the vast discrepancies in career outcomes between men and women can be only in part attributed to sex differences in academic performance.


External organisations
  • Karolinska Institutet
  • International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis
  • Vienna University of Economics and Business
  • University of Minnesota system
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Gender Studies
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-92
Early online date2017 Dec 15
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Publication categoryResearch