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Rise of Women, The

Rise of Women, The: The Growing Gender Gap in Education and What it Means for American Schools

Thomas A. DiPrete
Claudia Buchmann
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Rise of Women, The
    Book Description:

    While powerful gender inequalities remain in American society, women have made substantial gains and now largely surpass men in one crucial arena: education. Women now outperform men academically at all levels of school, and are more likely to obtain college degrees and enroll in graduate school. What accounts for this enormous reversal in the gender education gap? InThe Rise of Women: The Growing Gender Gap in Education and What It Means for American Schools, Thomas DiPrete and Claudia Buchmann provide a detailed and accessible account of women's educational advantage and suggest new strategies to improve schooling outcomes for both boys and girls.

    The Rise of Womenopens with a masterful overview of the broader societal changes that accompanied the change in gender trends in higher education. The rise of egalitarian gender norms and a growing demand for college-educated workers allowed more women to enroll in colleges and universities nationwide. As this shift occurred, women quickly reversed the historical male advantage in education. By 2010, young women in their mid-twenties surpassed their male counterparts in earning college degrees by more than eight percentage points. The authors, however, reveal an important exception: While women have achieved parity in fields such as medicine and the law, they lag far behind men in engineering and physical science degrees. To explain these trends,The Rise of Womencharts the performance of boys and girls over the course of their schooling. At each stage in the education process, they consider the gender-specific impact of factors such as families, schools, peers, race and class. Important differences emerge as early as kindergarten, where girls show higher levels of essential learning skills such as persistence and self-control. Girls also derive more intrinsic gratification from performing well on a day-to-day basis, a crucial advantage in the learning process. By contrast, boys must often navigate a conflict between their emerging masculine identity and a strong attachment to school. Families and peers play a crucial role at this juncture. The authors show the gender gap in educational attainment between children in the same families tends to be lower when the father is present and more highly educated. A strong academic climate, both among friends and at home, also tends to erode stereotypes that disconnect academic prowess and a healthy, masculine identity. Similarly, high schools with strong science curricula reduce the power of gender stereotypes concerning science and technology and encourage girls to major in scientific fields.

    As the value of a highly skilled workforce continues to grow,The Rise of Womenargues that understanding the source and extent of the gender gap in higher education is essential to improving our schools and the economy. With its rigorous data and clear recommendations, this volume illuminates new ground for future education policies and research.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-800-0
    Subjects: Sociology, Education

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Tables and Figures
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. About the Authors
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. Chapter 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)

    Women typically make less money than men. They seldom occupy the most powerful offices in government or corporate America. And they still do the bulk of the child care and routine housework in the home. These and other features of gender inequality have led some observers to write of the “stalled gender revolution” (England 2010; Carlson 2011). Not long ago, women also lagged considerably behind men in their educational attainment. In the United States and most industrialized societies, however, the days when gender inequality in education meant female disadvantage are now more than twenty years in the past. In fact,...

  7. Part I Trends and the Macro Environment

    • Chapter 2 What Has Happened? Describing the Reversal of the Gender Gap in College Completion
      (pp. 27-52)

      The general outlines of the gender gap reversal in college completion are now well known.¹ This reversal occurred through a sharp slowdown in the rise in educational attainment of men, starting with cohorts born around 1950. The rise in educational attainment for women also slowed around this time but only temporarily; thereafter, women continued to make steady progress. For men, the slowdown in the growth of college completion rates lasted longer, and when growth did resume, it was as strong as that for women. The distinctive trends for women and men combined to reverse the gender gap in educational attainment...

    • Chapter 3 Changing Incentives and Opportunities for Higher Education
      (pp. 53-76)

      The “Great Recession” of 2008 was unique in many ways, but one of its most striking aspects was that it had a far greater impact on men than it did on women.¹ News headlines used terms like “hecession” and “sheconomy” to get this point across. From the beginning of the recession in December 2007 until February 2010, when the job market hit bottom, the U.S. economy lost over 8.5 million jobs. About 70 percent of all job losses were to men.² Although it appears that men are regaining jobs at a faster rate than women (Kochhar 2011), it is also...

  8. Part II Academic Performance, Engagement, and Family Influence

    • Chapter 4 The Gender Gap in Academic Performance
      (pp. 79-100)

      Girls have long gotten better grades in school than boys.¹ This fact is generally not known or acknowledged in much of the academic research and popular press focused on current gender gaps in education. In fact, some commentators assume that females’ better academic performance over that of males is a recent phenomenon and that boys used to perform as well as or better than girls academically. This misrepresentation of trends in the gender gap in academic performance has led to much hand-wringing over the “problem with boys.” Of course, for much of the twentieth century, the female advantages in academic...

    • Chapter 5 Social and Behavioral Skills and School-Related Attitudes
      (pp. 101-115)

      In this chapter, we discuss three primary reasons for girls’ tendency to do better in school than their test scores would predict. First, girls have an advantage relative to boys in terms of the social and behavioral skills that are valuable in producing higher levels of academic performance. Second, on average girls put forth greater effort than boys, and therefore girls gain greater average returns to their abilities than boys do, as measured by grades in school. Third, girls show greater levels of attachment to school, which may produce stronger gratification from school performance and therefore stronger immediate incentives to...

    • Chapter 6 The Family and the Gender Gap
      (pp. 116-154)

      This chapter examines the thesis that families play an important role in producing a gender gap in educational performance and attainment. First, we review evidence that parental education at one time assisted daughters in getting the same level of education as their brothers and that this relationship has been reversed in the past sixty years, such that today boys are especially disadvantaged when their parents are less educated or when their father is absent. Then we address the question of how the relative academic performances of sons and daughters may depend on family characteristics. The mechanisms connecting parental resources to...

  9. Part III The Role of Schools

    • Chapter 7 Schools, Classrooms, and Peers
      (pp. 157-179)

      In the preceding chapters, we documented two salient facts about the connection between gender and educational performance. First, girls generally do better in school than boys. Second, a wider variance exists in the math performance of boys, such that more boys than girls score in the upper tail of the performance distribution. This is true in kindergarten (penner and paret 2008) and remains true in secondary schools, where the gender disparity grows with the sensitivity of the test to extreme performance in mathematics (Ellison and Swanson 2010). The male achievement deficit contributes to the gender gap in educational attainment, while...

    • Chapter 8 Gender, College Major, and Postgraduate Education
      (pp. 180-199)

      Our focus to this point has been on the growing advantage that women have over men in attaining bachelor’s degrees and on the determinants of this advantage in the environment and earlier life course. It is striking that the rise of the female advantage in four-year college completion has occurred without a steady convergence in the fields of study undertaken by females and males. Fields of study in college have a strong effect on postgraduate education, on the occupational trajectories of men and women, and on the gender gap in earnings (Brown and Corcoran 1997; Blau and Kahn 2000). Understanding...

    • Chapter 9 Enhancing Educational Attainment
      (pp. 200-212)

      The gender reversal in educational attainment occurred during a period of history when a rising value of education coincided with a cultural transformation in gender roles. Profound shifts in gender attitudes during the 1960s and 1970s and declining discrimination against women produced strong incentives for them to get more education, and women responded to these incentives by completing ever-higher rates of college. Their rates of college completion surpassed those of men in the 1980s, and the female-favorable advantage in college completion grew even larger in the first decade of the twenty-first century. Changes in the labor market have enhanced the...

  10. Appendix A: Figures and Tables
    (pp. 213-224)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 225-238)
  12. References
    (pp. 239-270)
  13. Index
    (pp. 271-278)