Gender Inequalities in Education

Buchmann, Claudia, Thomas A DiPrete, and Anne McDaniel. 2008. “Gender Inequalities in Education.” Annual Review of Sociology. Vol.34, pp.319‐337

Gender inequalities in education

  • Although girls have long gotten better grades in school than boys, most researchers brushed aside this point because women did not translate their better performance into higher levels of educational attainment relative to men (Mickelson 1989).
  • Women have come to far outnumber men among new college graduates in most industrialized societies

 From K – High school

  • Delayed entry into kindergarten, or academic redshirting, is more common among boys and among children from families of high socioeconomic status.
  • Boys comprise about 60% of the children with delayed kindergarten entry and 66% of those who repeat kindergarten 

Test scores

  • Results from various national and international large-scale assessments indicate that boys have higher test scores in mathematics and girls have higher test scores in reading.

Grades and behaviors related to school success

  • Girls have long obtained higher grades in school than boys. Even in the 1950s and 1960s girls earned higher grades than boys and had higher class standing in high school.
  • Today, from kindergarten through high school and even in college, girls get better grades in all major subjects, including math and science.
  • Boys are overrepresented in populations with reading disabilities, antisocial behavior, mental retardation, attention disorders, dyslexia, stuttering, and delayed speech.
  • Males are at higher risk for antisocial behavior that is neurodevelopment in origin, but for antisocial behavior that originates in the context of social relationships, gender differences are negligible.
  • Emotional and behavioral problems early in childhood also contribute to educational outcomes later in life, such as the likelihood of repeating a grade in secondary school, completing high school, and enrolling in college.
  • Twice as many boys as girls have difficulty paying attention in kindergarten, and girls more often demonstrate persistence in completing tasks and an eagerness to learn.
  • These advantages in orientation to learning and other social skills grow during the early elementary school years and plausibly account for a portion of the more rapid reading gains that girls achieve during this period.
  • During adolescence, high school teachers consistently rate girls as putting forth more effort and as being less disruptive than boys.

Explaining gender gaps from K- High school

  • Girls and women tend to excel on tests of verbal fluency, arithmetic calculation, and memory for the spatial locations of objects.
  • Boys and men tend to excel on tests of verbal analogies, mathematical word problems, and memory for the geometric configuration of an environment.
  • Parents are more involved in school activities with sons and more involved in home activities with daughters; as children grow older, parental involvement with boy’s declines, but their involvement with girls remains constant.
  • Some large-scale studies find that males perform no better when taught by male teachers than by female teachers
  • Having a female teacher instead of a male teacher in the subjects of science, social studies, and English in middle school raises the achievement of girls and lowers the achievement of boys, producing an overall gender gap of 8% of a standard deviation.

 From High school to college

  • Young women consistently outperform their male peers in high school graduation.
  • In 1960, 65% of all bachelor degrees were awarded to men. Women continued to lag behind men in college graduation rates until 1982 when they reached parity with men.
  • From 1982 onward the percentage of bachelor’s degrees awarded to women continued to climb such that by 2005 women received 58% of all bachelor’s degrees and comprised 57% of all college students.
  • In 2005, almost 11% of males age 16 to 24 were dropouts, compared to 8% of females.
  • In 2005, male dropout rates for whites, blacks, and Hispanics were 6%, 12%, and 26%, respectively, compared with 5%, 9%, and 18%, respectively, for females of the same groups.
  • Students who enroll in college directly after high school have higher rates of overall college enrollment, persistence in college, and graduation.
  • Of those who enrolled in college in the year 2000, 60% of men compared to 66% of women enrolled immediately after high school.

 Completing college

  • Women currently earn 58% percent of all bachelor’s degrees awarded in the United States
  • Women earn 66% of all bachelor’s degrees awarded to blacks; the figures are 61% for Hispanics, 60% for Native Americans, 55% for Asians, and 57% for whites.
  • In the United States, one major reason that women earn more degrees than men is their lower rate of dropout, once enrolled. Women also earn their degrees more quickly.


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