The gender gap in education

Girls have been outperforming boys in education for a long time.  In High School, though, apparently it’s becoming even more pronounced.  High achievement– as measured by percentage of A’s– shows an increasing gap between girls and boys.  Here’s a chart from a very interesting article in Slate/BusinessInsider:

nber1

So, what’s been going on in the past decade to cause this?  Some options:

The researchers looked at four possible explanations: students’ plans for the future (including further education and eventual employment), non-cognitive skills, family environment, and working during school. By far the biggest change over the last 30 years has been in the labor market, and in women’s expectations about their careers. [emphasis mine] With the advent of computers and other technology, the number of clerical-type jobs, which used to largely employ women, has absolutely plummeted.

Basically, more girls than boys plan on extended higher education and they take their HS studies more seriously as a result.  Check out this graph:

nber2

And some more explanation:

Just as the intention of going to grad school is strongly tied to getting more As, aiming towards a 2-year school is associated with lower grades, such as Cs. Boys, for example, expecting to go to graduate school leads to a 4 percent to 14 percent increased chance of getting an A. Expecting to go to a 2-year college lowers that chance -7 percent to -11 percent. The fact that more boys have aimed towards 2-year schools while more girls aim higher is one of the principle explanations of the gap. Boys also have higher levels of misbehavior, correlated with poor performance.

Too late to make the syllabus (photocopied it yesterday), but this will definitely be up for discussion in this semester’s Gender & Politics.

While there is still plenty of institutional sexism that harms girls, we do seem to need to do some work on boys here and, hopefully, get their academic ambition to catch up to that of girls.  Or at least not fall increasingly short.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

5 Responses to The gender gap in education

  1. pino says:

    While there is still plenty of institutional sexism that harms girls, we do seem to need to do some work on boys here and, hopefully, get their academic ambition to catch up to that of girls.

    Maybe there is no sexism anywhere. Rather just results based on reasonable life choices made at different points in life.

    • Steve Greene says:

      Seriously?! If you had been around longer, you’d see that I’m not at all knee-jerk on this issue– especially when it comes to the wage gap. But “no sexism anywhere”? Do you live in this country?

      • pino says:

        Do you live in this country?

        How many percentage points do you attribute gender wage gap to discrimination?

      • Steve Greene says:

        Best evidence suggests 5-10%.

      • Mike from Canada says:

        You had to have noticed the wording “Maybe there is no sexism anywhere”.

        Anywhere includes certain African regions where it can be considered reasonable to cut off a young girls clitoris with dirty broken glass and sew up her vagina with string. Personally, I would suggest that female genital mutilation is sexism. Or how about the many girls who are not allowed to attend school. The opposite of “a reasonable life choice”.

        The very definition of sexism.

        His statement looks rather trollish to me.

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