CSRDA Discussion Paper Series

No. 61 Punishing “Gender Deviants”?: Women Born in the Year of the White Horse and College Selectivity
Soocheol Cho, Dohoon Lee
Soocheol ChoIndiana University
Dohoon LeeSeoul National University
Gendered cultural beliefsThe Chinese zodiacCollege selectivityDifference-in-differences model
Goal 5: Gender EqualityGoal 10: Reduced Inequalities
The Graduate Occupational Mobility Survey (GOMS)

Belief in the Chinese zodiac, a cultural belief widely held in East Asian cultures, posits that people are fated to have different traits according to the zodiac animal attached to their birth year. As a horse is culturally associated with masculine traits, Korean women born in the White Horse year are presumed to be argumentative, headstrong, and born with “too much” Yin energy. In this study, we analyze a nationally representative sample of Korean college graduates to examine whether and how being born in the White Horse year, thereby being chronically exposed to gender stereotype-violating stigma, affects women’s higher educational attainment. Results from difference-in-differences models show that White Horse women, on average, entered colleges of lower selectivity than did non-White Horse women, whereas no such disadvantage was attached to White Horse men. We also find that this impact of the White Horse stigma does not differ significantly between socioeconomically advantaged and disadvantaged White Horse women. These findings suggest that an actual violation of gendered expectations is not always necessary to induce social penalties; rather, even a sheer presumption, such as belief about White Horse women, may be pervasive and sufficient for women to face social disadvantages.