Can we explain how and why boys end up consistently outperforming girls on standardized tests in mathematics?
We partnered with University of Chicago economist Steve Levitt to document and analyze the emergence of a substantial gender gap in mathematics during the early years of schooling. We studied the gender gap by utilizing the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study Kindergarten Cohort (ECLS-K), a nationally representative panel of more than 20,000 children in 1,000 schools entering kindergarten in the Fall of 1998.
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Although there are no differences in mathematics performance between boys and girls upon entry to school, significant differences emerge during the first six years of schooling. Girls lose one-fourth of a standard deviation relative to boys over the first six years of school. We examine a wide range of possible explanations such as less investment by girls in math, low parental expectations, and biased tests, but find little support for any of these theories.