This study leverages a policy change in the missionary program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that exogenously influenced the likelihood a woman took gap time during college to understand how gap time influences women's subsequent choice of major and academic outcomes. If structured gap time shapes educational outcomes, increasing the uptake of gap time by women may be a mechanism to ameliorate later wage gaps. Using administrative data from Brigham Young University (N = 17,402) and an instrumental variables estimation strategy, we find that women who take gap time for missionary service shift into majors with higher expected salaries and are more likely to be in limited-enrollment majors and majors with a higher concentration of men. However, gap time decreases the likelihood of graduating within eight years of entering college, creating tension between the costs and benefits. On average, net benefits of expected wages are close to zero. Gap time most clearly benefits women with relatively low ACT scores who are more likely to be accepted into limited enrollment programs following gap time. This research informs university administrators and students alike seeking to understand the academic implications of taking planned time off during postsecondary education.

This content is only available as a PDF.

Article PDF first page preview

Article PDF first page preview
You do not currently have access to this content.