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The Rise of Women

The Growing Gender Gap in Education and What it Means for American Schools

Thomas A. DiPrete, Claudia Buchmann

Publication Year: 2013

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? In The 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 Women opens 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 Women charts 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 Women argues 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.

Published by: Russell Sage Foundation

Title Page

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p. 3-3


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p. 4-4


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pp. v-vi

Tables and Figures

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pp. vii-xii

About the Authors

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pp. xiii-14

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pp. xv-xviii

This book is the product of more than a decade of research that began with a hallway conversation in May 2001, when we were both professors at Duke University. Tom’s youngest daughter was finishing her first year of middle school. Tom had just come from an ice cream social and ceremony that the superintendent of the Durham...

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1. Introduction

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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...

Part I: Trends and the Macro Environment

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pp. 25-75

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2. What Has Happened? Describing the Reversal of the Gender Gap in College Completion

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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...

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3. Changing Incentives and Opportunities for Higher Education

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pp. 53-75

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...

Part II: Academic Performance, Engagement, and Family Influence

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pp. 77-154

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4. The Gender Gap in Academic Performance

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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...

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5. Social and Behavioral Skills and School-Related Attitudes

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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...

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6. The Family and the Gender Gap

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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...

Part III: The Role of Schools

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pp. 155-174

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7. Schools, Classrooms, and Peers

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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...

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8. Gender, College Major, and Postgraduate Education

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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...

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9. Enhancing Educational Attainment

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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...

Appendix A: Figures and Tables

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pp. 213-224


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pp. 225-238


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pp. 239-269


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pp. 271-277

E-ISBN-13: 9781610448000
Print-ISBN-13: 9780871540515

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2013