The Education Gender Gap: From Grade School to Grad School

Since the 1980s, more women than men have been attending college. Since 1996, more women have been attending and graduating from college.1 A study in 2008 found the male to female ratio for attending college was 43.6 and 56.4, respectively. The gender gap in education continues to widen in favor of women, but why?

The 2011 PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) found a consistent difference between girls’ and boys’ academic achievement in most countries.  Fourth grade girls have a much higher average reading achievement than boys, and their 2011 results continue to show this pattern. In the United States, recent research found that girls had an advantage in reading at all grades, from kindergarten through twelfth grade.  Another study conducted by PISA in 2009 showed that 15-year-old girls performed consistently better in reading than boys.3

In Richard Whitmire’s, “Why Boys Fail,”4 he shares the following stats to show the academic gap between boys and girls:

    • The average high school grade point average is 3.09 for girls and 2.86 for boys. Boys are almost twice as likely as girls to repeat a grade.
    • Boys are twice as likely to get suspended as girls, and three times as likely to be expelled. Estimates of dropouts vary, but it seems that about one-quarter more boys drop out than girls.
    • Among whites, women earn 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees and 62 percent of master’s degrees. Among blacks, the figures are 66 percent and 72 percent.
    • In federal writing tests, 32 percent of girls are considered “proficient” or better. For boys, the figure is 16 percent.

What is causing boys to fall behind? The most widely acknowledged theory is that the K-12 classroom is more favorable to girls. “The world has gotten more verbal. Boys haven’t,” says Whitmire. He argues that the root cause of boys falling behind at school is that the teaching methods aren’t designed to engage the minds of boys. Boredom is an all too familiar side effect of classroom teaching, which leads to frustration and causes boys to showcase behavioral problems and/or dislike going to school.

“Girls use more words. They are heavy on reading and early literacy and more social cooperation,” says author and behavioral psychologist Anthony Rao in the article, “New UGA Study: Their Classroom Demeanors Give Girls a Boost in Grades Over Boys in Classroom.”5 The same article also lists that boys commonly display worse behavior than girls, which can cause teachers to assign higher grades to girls over boys.

Is there a remedy for this problem? Is the problem academic, social, emotional, or all of the above?

LifeBound’s books are written with the complex world of students in mind. People Smarts for Teenagers asks students to examine boundaries with their peers, strengthen their emotional intelligence, and prepare them with tools they need to be academically successful. Gifts & Talents for Teenagers helps teens start aligning their interests, passions, and strengths into higher education or career choices. Students need a framework that shows what they do in the classroom has applications in the real world.


1Why Are Women More Interested in Going to College Than Men?”
2PIRLS 2011 International Results in Reading,” <ahref=””>
3 New Reading Standards Aim to Prep Kids for College But at What Cost, “
4“The Boys Have Fallen Behind,”

5 New UGA Study: Their Classroom Demeanors Give Girls a Boost in Grades Over Boys in Classroom

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