Gender gap

Data show that males and females in the United States demonstrate a gap in achievement, which can be seen at all ages. The achievement gap widens as age increases for student through post-secondary education.

Research shows that one in three boys will fail to receive a high school diploma in four years. One in four girls will drop out of high school. For the 2003-2004 school year, it is estimated that 26 percent of all female students dropped out and 34 percent of all male students did. These dropout rates varied with race/ethnicity and location around the country. For the 2003-2004 school year, the 26 percent of all female student dropouts can be broken down by race: 22 percent of whites, 40 percent of blacks, 37 percent of Hispanics, 18 percent of Asian/Pacific Islander and 50 percent of American Indian females did not finish high school in the standard four year period. The percentage of males can be broken down also: 28 percent of whites, 54 percent of blacks, 48 percent of Hispanics, 24 percent of Asian/Pacific Islanders and 56 percent of American Indian male students dropped out of high school. In 2006, 77 percent of all male high school dropouts were employed, compared to 53 percent of female dropouts. The median earnings of males dropouts were $24,698 and the median earnings of female dropouts were $15,520.

In 2005, the average grade point average (GPA) of a high school male was 2.86, while that of a female student was 3.09. Both of these GPAs had risen since 1990, and in all years of the High School Transcript Study, females had higher GPAs than males. The gap between males and females has widened since 1990. Female graduates have higher GPAs than males in every core subject (Mathematics, Science, English, and Social Studies).

A University of Michigan study found that 62 percent of female high school graduates plan on obtaining a degree from a four-year university, compared to only 51 percent of males. There is evidence that more girls are taking AP exams, which determine whether high school students have mastered college curriculum in subjects. In 2002, for example, 54 percent of AP test-takers were female and only 46 percent were male. However, more males took tests in the subjects of calculus, computer science, and other sciences. Girls are also more likely to take the SAT, ACT, or other college entrance exam, but boys are likely to score higher.

Despite the achievement gaps, research does not show that either gender is more intelligent than the other. There are, however, differences in performance in different subjects. Males typically score higher on math and science based tests, while females generally score higher on tests of verbal abilities. International studies suggest that this difference in ability is not solely attributed to innate differences in males and females. The score gap of these tests generally showed males performing high in math and sciences, yet the gap was significantly different throughout the countries. This implies that there are numerous factors influencing educational ability, including, but not limited to, economic, cultural, social, and differences in educational systems and techniques. Research has also shown that individuals who take more high school math and science courses earn higher wages later in life. Fewer boys than girls now study chemistry, geometry and advanced algebra, and about the same number study calculus and trigonometry, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics of the United States Department of Education.

Furthermore, the achievement gap for males and females in mathematics is interesting in the fact that girls typically have better grades in math classes, but tend to score lower on standardized math tests (Dee, 2006). NAEP testing shows that these gaps are practically non-existent at young ages (i.e. elementary school), but that they increase greatly with age (Adeleke, 2007 & Dee, 2006). In fact, differences in NAEP math scores between boys and girls nearly double from the 9-year olds to the 17-year olds tests (Dee, 2007). Other tests that follow the trend for males doing better than females include AP Calculus Exams and the math portion of the SAT (Amelink, 2009). Although there are no physiological differences between males and females to attribute these gaps, research urges that mathematical problem solving abilities can be equally attained, undeterred by gender, given certain circumstances (Adeleke, 2007). To close these gaps, positive attitudes towards mathematics must be encouraged, gender stereotypes must be decreased, and students must have role models and mathematical career options available and prevalent (Amelink, 2009). The biggest challenge of these three criteria is the affect of gender stereotyping in the classroom. Mathematics and science are oftentimes thought of as masculine subjects while English and history are seen as feminine subjects. With this mindset it follows that females often live up to this expectation and do not do as well in mathematics. It is supported by research that gender stereotypes, in turn, decrease mathematical self-esteem among many females and that this leads to anxiety in mathematical exams (Amelink, 2009). The overall achievement gap therefore increases with the age of students because of the gradual decline of self-esteem throughout the grades (Spring, 2010). It follows that when females have role models in the mathematics field and are shown multiple career options for the content, then girls are more likely to succeed and overcome gender stereotyping (Amelink, 2009). Recent data suggests that fifty-five percent of college students are females and 45 percent are males. From 1995 until 2005, the number of males enrolled in college increased by 18 percent, while the number of female students rose by 27 percent. Males are enrolling in college in greater numbers than ever before, yet less than two-thirds of them are graduating with a bachelor’s degree. The numbers of both men and women receiving a bachelor’s degree have increased significantly, but the increasing rate of female college graduates exceeds the increasing rate for males. However, a higher proportion of men (29.4 percent) hold bachelor’s degrees than women (26.1 percent). In 2007, the United States Census Bureau estimated that 18,423,000 males ages eighteen and over held a bachelor’s degree, while 20,501,000 females ages eighteen and over held one. Less males held a master’s degree, as well: 6,472,000 males had received one and 7,283,000 females had. However, more men held professional and doctoral degrees than women. 2,033,000 males held professional degrees and 1,079,000 females did and 1,678,000 males had received a doctoral degree, while 817,000 females had.

Although more women are graduating with undergraduate degrees, men are still earning disproportionately more in their lifetimes. This could be due to many factors, including different types of jobs for males and females. Females are greatly underrepresented in science and engineering fields, which are typically correlated with high lifetime earnings. Males and females also have vastly different labor market histories based on type of job and time spent in each job.

A discrimination-based argument for the difference in types of jobs held by men and women is known as the occupational-crowding hypothesis. This argues that women are intentionally segregated into specific occupations. It does not necessarily state that this discrimination comes from male employers. Instead, it suggests that the differences in job types may be a result of the social climate in which young women are taught that certain jobs are "not for girls" and therefore are pushed into "more appropriate" jobs for women. These "appropriate" jobs for women would include those that are largely dominated by females i.e. teaching, maids, bank tellers, receptionists, and child care workers. Occupations that are male dominated include carpenters, truck drivers, architects, lawyers, police, and physicians. Because females are “crowded” into a small number of jobs, the wage is driven down and a gender wage gap is thus created.

A different explanation for the difference in job types suggests that women rationally choose certain jobs and avoid others. This human capital model provides a "supply-side" explanation. Some jobs, and in particular many female-dominated jobs, do not require a frequent update of skills, whereas other occupations do. Women who choose to spend time in the household sector would choose jobs with less skill updating requirements in order to maximize their lifetime earnings. These jobs imply that should a person return to the workforce after spending time in the household sector, his or her wages would not be significantly depreciated due to lost time in the labor market.
At present, the average female wage is 77 cents to each dollar that a male earns. This wage gap may be due to discrimination, differences in innate ability and skills, varying preferences, experience in the labor market, differences in hours worked, or another explanation.

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