Monday, July 11, 2016

Girls from progressive societies do better at math, study finds

Public Release: 13-May-2016
Girls from progressive societies do better at math, study finds
Published in American Economic Review
Queen Mary University of London

Research co-authored by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) has found that the 'maths gender gap' - the relative underperformance of girls at maths - is much wider in societies with poor rates of gender equality. Published today in the American Economic Review, the research shows that the performance gap between girls and boys is far less pronounced in societies that hold progressive and egalitarian views about the role of women.


The researchers found that the more gender equality in the country of ancestry, the higher the maths scores of girls relative to boys living in the same country. The findings were significant and robust even when the researchers controlled for other individual factors that may affect youths' maths performance. In particular, the results show that an increase of 0.05 points (or one standard deviation) in the GGI is associated with an increase in the performance of girls in maths, relative to boys, of 7.47 points - equivalent to about one and a half months of schooling.

Natalia Nollenberger, co-author and Researcher associated with the IE University added: "Use Turkey as an example of a country that has a poor rate of gender equality (0.58). Girls of Turkish ancestry underperform boys of Turkish ancestry by an average of 13.8 points. Our data show that if Turkey had a higher rate of gender equality closer to the average country of ancestry in our sample (0.69), then the maths gender gap between boys and girls of Turkish ancestry would disappear."

Previous evidence had already found a correlation between societal factors and the maths gender gap, but could not establish a firm cause.

"Most importantly", explains Nuria Rodriguez-Planas, co-author and Associate Professor of Economics at City University of New York, Queens College: "this earlier work was unable to establish whether the performance gap is due to girls expecting lower returns from maths in terms of the labour market and the education system, or whether it's due to a message that maths is essentially not for girls. The former is about institutions, while the latter is about values. Our research looks specifically at values like gender equality and we've found that yes, values and views about women really do matter in this context."


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