Why do so many more women study abroad?

The ratio is about 2-1.  And it’s not just because women are concentrated in the "study abroad intensive" humanities:

The National Science Foundation reports that men earn 80 percent of bachelor’s degrees in engineering. But women’s participation in a study abroad consortium for engineers, the Global Engineering Education Exchange, typically ranges from 30 to nearly 40 percent (39.3 percent this academic year) – far outstripping their 20 percent representation in the field.

Here is what the experts think:

Among the many conventional wisdom-type explanations pervading in the study abroad field: differing maturity and risk-taking levels among 18- to 21-year-old men and women; a sense that females, concerned about safety, are more inclined to attend a college-sanctioned study abroad program than travel on their own; and, again, varying study abroad participation rates in male versus female-dominated fields.

I favor a more Hansonian explanation, such as this:

“The three main factors I found were motherhood, age and safety,” said McKinney, associate director of the Center for Global Education at Butler University. “Essentially, my informants shared with me that they really hope someday to be mothers and they can’t imagine being able to travel abroad and also be a mom. So if they’re going to have an overseas experience, they’re going to do it before they become mothers,” she said, adding that her informants “really felt plagued by the age of 30. They have a very long to-do list.”

If that hypothesis is true, what are the other testable implications?  What other forms of intertemporal substitution should we observe?


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