Doctor Science Knows

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Bad EGG: The Educational Gender Gap

Comment left at Alas, a Blog discussion on Boys & Girls in School, also at Rachel's Tavern

Warning: Bad Statistics

The numbers in the table Rachel gave don't make sense. In the years this study reports, 57% of US undergrads were women. That doesn't square with the "all students" line unless the proportion of students with family incomes above $30K is minute. (Also, I cannot find the article Rachel cites at the Chronicle of Higher Education website.)

My figures come from this report:
Gender Differences in Participation & Completion of Undergraduate Education and How They Have Changed Over Time which I am still looking through.

Here is a summary of the educational gender gap (which I'm now going to call the EGG, because typing the whole thing is boring) from that report, by income and year:

Percent of US undergrads who were women
Income level1989–901995–961999–2000
Low income59.360.260.2
Middle low income56.356.556.3
Middle high income55.755.756.0
High income50.954.553.4
All students55.356.856.3

Note: the Standard Errors for the 95-96 and 99-00 figures are 5 to 10 times what they are for 89-90 (sample size), so be careful what kind of trend conclusions you draw.

I have not yet found statistics about the EGG by race *and* income, so I cannot answer the question: "Is there an EGG for medium-to-high-income white students?" The fact that there is still an EGG for high-income students (who are overwhelmingly white & Asian) strongly suggests that the EGG is not just about race & income, but affects well-off white boys too, though to a lesser degree.

My personal guess about the gender-specific component of the EGG is summarized by the title of this book by Mariah Burton Nelson: The Stronger Women Get, the More Men Love Football. IMHO is it not possible for the average US boy to do as well academically as the average US girl, so long as he spends a great deal of his time, energy, and ambition on sports.