SD.20.011 – A Behavioural Approach To Promote Gender Equality Among Boys and Girls

Route: Sustainable development goals for inclusive global development

Cluster question: 041 What is the ''inequality problem''?

Sustainable Development Goal 5 calls for gender equality. There is reason for optimism: Gender gaps in educational outcomes as well as labor force participation are declining across the world. For example, in the last two decades, gender gaps in enrolment into primary schools have been halved in low-income countries. However, despite this progress, women and girls continue to make decisions that systematically translate into lower education completion, remaining responsible for the majority of caring duties, and ending up in jobs where they earn less than men.

While gender gaps are deeply rooted in societal institutions, they translate — at the individual behavioural level — into gender differences in preferences, attitudes, and beliefs and these start to diverge at a very early age. For example, girls may be more likely to aspire to become nurses while boys may be more likely to dream of becoming a doctor; girls may believe they are not as good as boys in STEM subjects or may want to refrain from fierce competition to achieve their goals. While structural changes to societies’ institutions may be comparatively slow, recent evidence shows that gendered preferences, attitudes, and beliefs are malleable, especially among children.

Therefore we propose to design and evaluate behavioural interventions to combat gendered preferences, attitudes and beliefs of children attending primary school in at least two African and one European country. Examples of interventions that will be considered are role model interventions, goal-setting, gender discussion groups, value affirmation, and negotiation skill training. We will use experimental research designs and measure impacts on intermediate outcomes (preferences, attitudes, and beliefs) and on pupil performance of boys and girls, ranging from test scores to transition to secondary school. We will build on our existing networks of collaboration with academics, education ministries, and international organizations to promote take-up in education curricula.


gender gaps, inclusive education, Inequality


Organisation Utrecht University (UU)
Name Prof. dr. J.J. (Joost) de Laat