gender underachievement

Inside Higher Ed reports on new research that seeks to explain why women, on average, are outperforming men academically:

The facts of women being more likely than men to go to college, perform better academically, and major in fields other than science, technology, engineering and mathematics are mostly attributable to factors affecting students before – in some cases, long before – they enter the halls of academe. But that doesn’t mean colleges can’t do anything to mitigate the consequences.

Those are the conclusions of the authors of a new book, The Rise of Women (Russell Sage Foundation), about how and why female students continue to outpace their male counterparts in education (yet still can’t seem to earn a comparable paycheck).

“We’ve seen astonishing change over a very short historical period,” Thomas DiPrete, the book’s co-author and a sociology professor at Columbia University, said on a call with reporters Wednesday.

Starting with the people born around 1950, the rate of men’s bachelor’s degree completion stopped growing, and it stayed stagnant for years. In 1970, 20 percent of men and 14 percent of women finished college. By 2010, women’s graduation rates had “skyrocketed” to 36 percent, DiPrete said, while the rate among men grew only seven points, to 27 percent.

Today, women outpace men in college enrollment by a ratio of 1.4 to 1.

Beginning as early as kindergarten, the authors explained, girls have better average social and behavioral skills than boys, and that relates to girls’ higher average grades at each stage of school and why girls are more likely to earn a degree.

“The grade gap isn’t about ability,” said Claudia Buchmann, co-author and sociology professor at Ohio State University, “it’s really more about effort and engagement in school…”

“We really need schools that set high expectations, that treat students as individuals – not just as gendered groups – and also motivate students to invest in their education so that they can reach the big returns of a college degree that exist in today’s labor market,” Buchmann said.

Read the full story here.

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