I have long been of the impression that most of the gender gap in academic achievement is skewed towards lower SES groups and URMs, that much of it has much to do with a comparative lack of male engagement in primary and secondary school, especially with respect to home work compliance, so I decided to exploit my prior efforts to try to assess the accuracy of this view.  Of course this data isn’t broken out by race or SES per se, but the right side on the x-axis is generally higher SES and more white and asian (whereas the left side is generally more black and latino and generally lower SES).


English Grade 2


English Grade 4


English Grade 6
sex_school_ela_g6English Grade 9
sex_school_ela_g9English Grade 11

To my eye, it looks like the female lead in English (verbal skills) generally shrinks in later grades (some of which may be the product of higher male drop out rates) and in higher performing schools.


Math Grade 2sex_school_math_g2Math Grade 4
sex_school_math_g4Math Grade 6
sex_school_math_g6Math Grade 7
sex_school_math_g7Math Summative (Grades 9-11)

Algebra I
sex_school_algebraI Algebra IIsex_school_algebraII Geometry


It looks like there is little, if any, gap in elementary school math, but that a small but consistent gap opens up around high school and that this gap generally increases in higher performing schools.


Science Grade 5sex_school_sci_g5 Science Grade 8sex_school_sci_g8 Science Grade 10sex_school_sci_g10

sex_school_biology Chemistrysex_school_chemistry Physics


There is a non-trivial gap in several of the sciences and this gap generally grows in higher performing schools (note: there are few data points 4SD out and that are apt to be magnet schools).


History Grade 8sex_school_history_g8

US Historysex_school_us_history World Historysex_school_world_history

There is a significant gender gap in history and this gap grows in higher performing schools.


It looks pretty clear to me that the primary issues males face today has less to do with measurable differences in academic skills than other stuff.  By high school males are performing better than females in most subjects on average in California.  Even in English, a traditional female strength, the gap is not particularly large.  Given that the gaps generally move in a more favorable male direction in higher performing schools on these tests, it tends to support the notion that this has more to do with compliance, home work, and occupational choices (e.g., females pursuing occupations that require education/licensing at a higher rate–see teaching, nursing, etc).

Of course, it’s worth pointing out that averages only tell part of the story.  Male variability is larger across most traits and intelligence is certainly not an exception.

Even when the mean scores are equalized this extra male variability is apparent on the left and right tails.

Science Grade 10, percent far below basic by average score for each group


Science Grade 10, percent advanced by average score for each group


English Grade 11, percent far below basic by average score for each group

English Grade 11, percent advanced by average score for each group


So when you combine the added variance with differences in the means the total variance can be quite significant.  To look at the right side:

English Grade 11, Percent Advanced by District average


Chemistry, Percent Advanced by District average


Physics,  Percent Advanced by District Average


Science Grade 10, Percent Advanced by District Average


US History, Percent Advanced by District Average sex_us_hist_pct_adv_by_all

Or the left side:

English Grade 11, Percent Far Below Basic by District Average


Science Grade 10, Percent Far Below Basic By District Average


Put differently, some these achievement gaps are reflected in the actual score distributions, but much less so at the median or means than at the tails.  There are significantly more males that are poorly qualified for college (which partially explains why there are male dropouts in HS and beyond), but, at the same time, there are also generally even more men, proportionally speaking, that are better qualified for a rigorous college education (especially more quantitive or scientific subjects).