Girls make higher grades than boys in all school subjects, analysis finds

Apr 29, 2014
school
Larkmead School. Credit: CC-BY-SA-2.5,2.0,1.0

Despite the stereotype that boys do better in math and science, girls have made higher grades than boys throughout their school years for nearly a century, according to a new analysis published by the American Psychological Association.

"Although follow essentially stereotypical patterns on achievement tests in which typically score higher on math and science, females have the advantage on regardless of the material," said lead study author Daniel Voyer, PhD, of the University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, Canada. "School marks reflect learning in the larger social context of the classroom and require effort and persistence over long periods of time, whereas standardized tests assess basic or specialized academic abilities and aptitudes at one point in time without social influences."

Based on research from 1914 through 2011 that spanned more than 30 countries, the study found the differences in grades between girls and boys were largest for language courses and smallest for math and science. The female advantage in school performance in math and science did not become apparent until junior or , according to the study, published in the APA journal Psychological Bulletin. The degree of gender difference in grades increased from elementary to middle school, but decreased between high school and college.

The researchers examined 369 samples from 308 studies, reflecting grades of 538,710 boys and 595,332 girls. Seventy percent of the samples consisted of students from the United States. Other countries or regions represented by more than one sample included Norway, Canada, Turkey, Germany, Taiwan, Malaysia, Israel, New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, Slovakia, United Kingdom Africa and Finland. Countries represented by one sample included Belgium, Czech Republic, Estonia, Mexico, Hong Kong, India, Iran, Jordan, the Netherlands, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Serbia and Slovenia.

All studies included an evaluation of gender differences in teacher-assigned grades or official grade point averages in elementary, junior/middle or high school, or undergraduate and graduate university. Studies that relied on self-report and those about special populations, such as high-risk or mentored students, were excluded. The studies also looked at variables that might affect the students' grades, such as the country where students attended school, course material, students' ages at the time the grades were obtained, the study date and racial composition of the samples.

The study reveals that recent claims of a "boy crisis," with boys lagging behind girls in school achievement, are not accurate because girls' grades have been consistently higher than boys' across several decades with no significant changes in recent years, the authors wrote.

"The fact that females generally perform better than their male counterparts throughout what is essentially mandatory schooling in most countries seems to be a well-kept secret, considering how little attention it has received as a global phenomenon," said co-author Susan Voyer, MASc, also of the University of New Brunswick.

As for why girls perform better in school than boys, the authors speculated that social and cultural factors could be among several possible explanations. Parents may assume boys are better at math and science so they might encourage girls to put more effort into their studies, which could lead to the slight advantage girls have in all courses, they wrote. Gender differences in learning styles is another possibility. Previous research has shown tend to study in order to understand the materials, whereas boys emphasize performance, which indicates a focus on the final grades. "Mastery of the subject matter generally produces better marks than performance emphasis, so this could account in part for males' lower marks than females," the authors wrote.

Explore further: Single-sex education unlikely to offer advantage over coed schools, research finds

More information: "Gender Differences in Scholastic Achievement: A Meta-Analysis," Daniel Voyer, PhD, and Susan D. Voyer, MASc, University of New Brunswick, Psychological Bulletin, online April 28, 2014.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Keep boys and girls together, research suggests

Apr 11, 2008

Boys and girls may learn differently, but American parents should think twice before moving their children to sex-segregated schools. A new Tel Aviv University study has found that girls improve boys’ grades markedly at ...

Recommended for you

Decoding ethnic labels

5 hours ago

If you are of Latin American descent, do you call yourself Chicano? Latino? Hispanic?

Local education politics 'far from dead'

Jul 29, 2014

Teach for America, known for recruiting teachers, is also setting its sights on capturing school board seats across the nation. Surprisingly, however, political candidates from the program aren't just pushing ...

First grade reading suffers in segregated schools

Jul 29, 2014

A groundbreaking study from the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) has found that African-American students in first grade experience smaller gains in reading when they attend segregated schools—but the ...

Why aren't consumers buying remanufactured products?

Jul 29, 2014

Firms looking to increase market share of remanufactured consumer products will have to overcome a big barrier to do so, according to a recent study from the Penn State Smeal College of Business. Findings from faculty members ...

Expecting to teach enhances learning, recall

Jul 29, 2014

People learn better and recall more when given the impression that they will soon have to teach newly acquired material to someone else, suggests new research from Washington University in St. Louis.

User comments : 14

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

eric_in_chicago
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 29, 2014
I'd like to know if there was rigorous control for gender-bias in these studies.

I encountered heavy gender-bias against myself in college from female instructors.

They seemed to be fixated and projecting some guy who dumped them on me because I'm "cute and studly"!

Seriously...
eddington_john
2.7 / 5 (3) Apr 29, 2014
And still the feminists claim that they are the ones at a disadvantage.
rockwolf1000
5 / 5 (1) Apr 29, 2014
"Although gender differences follow essentially stereotypical patterns on achievement tests in which boys typically score higher on math and science, females have the advantage on school grades regardless of the material,"

Who cares what your grades are if your test scores are high? Your school grade is made up of a number of silly and superfluous things such as tardiness, completeness of notes and assignments, fancy title pages, underlining dates etc. The real "proof in the pudding" is the test scores. I infrequently had very high grades because I refused to do homework but, I had very high test scores because I understood the material and didn't need to do silly assignments to gain that understanding. IOW it was a waste of my valuable time. Lot's of people had higher grades than me, very few had higher test scores.
Benni
5 / 5 (1) Apr 29, 2014
When I was in grade school, jr high school, & sr high school I never understood why my classmates carried so many books home when we were getting out of afternoon classes. The ones with the heaviest armloads of books did no better or did only slightly better on exams than I did. For some reason I thought the classroom was where you learned it & homework was an extracurricular activity if I was in the mood to do it, which was seldom.

It wasn't until I got into engineering school in college that I figured it out. All those heavy armloads of books my classmates were carrying home all those years was because that's what they had to do to get A's & B's in math & science, I just listened to the teacher & took the tests to get the same grades they struggled for. Then came Calculus & Physics in college, suddenly it wasn't quite so simple. A few straight "A" high school classmates that followed me into college changed their major after 1st semester Calculus, all I had to do is the homework.
rockwolf1000
5 / 5 (1) Apr 30, 2014
@ Benni
Interesting! When I was in school I used to do quite a bit of reading and watched PBS when my friends were watching cartoons. What I found was a lot of the time I had already done the homework without realising it, on my own time, as far as understanding the subject matter anyway. So, it's not fair to say I never did homework I just didn't do it when the teacher asked. This strategy won't work for higher maths too well though so I do see your point re homework.

Depends on your objectives I suppose.

Grades tend to be a fairly crude measure of a persons capability and understanding.
alfie_null
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 30, 2014
I encountered heavy gender-bias against myself in college from female instructors.

They seemed to be fixated and projecting some guy who dumped them on me because I'm "cute and studly"!

I suppose you could try looking less cute and studly. Doubt it'll work, though.
MaleMatters
not rated yet Apr 30, 2014
And still the feminists claim that they are the ones at a disadvantage.


Yes. They did so for the past 20 years, blaming girls' self esteem, you might recall. WHOSE self-esteem is and has been lower? Boys' suicide rate is and has been about five times the rate of girls'.

See "The Doctrinaire Institute for Women's Policy Research: A Comprehensive Look at Gender Equality" http://malematter...esearch/

It has everything ideological feminists don't want you to know.

Personal note:

In my high school, which I graduated in 1959 (the pinnacle of the "patriarchy"), and which is located in the "patriarchal" Deep South, both the valedictorian and the salutatorian were girls. Moreover, of the 13 honor students, only three were boys.

In the Deep South. In 1959. In the "patriarchal" Deep South. In the "partiarchal, we gotta hold women down" 1950s.
Benni
5 / 5 (1) May 01, 2014
... as far as understanding the subject matter anyway. So, it's not fair to say I never did homework I just didn't do it when the teacher asked. This strategy won't work for higher maths too well though so I do see your point re homework.


@Rockwolf: To be more succinct with regard to the "homework" I seldom did prior to engineering school, it was because I always viewed "homework" as an optional activity because I seldom needed to do it to fully comprehend the subject material (especially math & science).

I didn't get straight A's because part of the final grade was based on turning in homework material which to me was useless. Why waste time doing stuff for which I probably had better comprehension than the teachers teaching it, not that I thought this consciously about my teachers but a few of them admitted to me in private conversations that I could be a straight "A" student if I would only change a few of my study habits, meaning "do the homework".

rockwolf1000
5 / 5 (1) May 01, 2014
@ Benni

That pretty much sums up my experience too. My teachers never harassed me for not turning in homework or skipping class because my test results were very good. It's unfortunate that school's can't seem to recognize when students need or do not need to be encumbered with reams of homework. The one size fits all system is a farce. It's too bad bright students can't be exempted from mundane lessons and assignments so they can advance at their own rate and not be held back by the other dullards in the class.
Kedas
not rated yet May 04, 2014
Maybe the heavier use of alcohol by male students has some impact on this.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) May 04, 2014
In the quest to bear babies with ever larger brains, human females became more sedentary, their hips growing wide and unwieldy in order to allow the passage of our grotesque craniums through the birth canal. In addition, human babies are born relatively helpless and need mothers who can sit and care for them to the exclusion of other activity.

And so women are more able to tolerate sitting in class listening to droning teachers for hours on end, and to reading books containing nonsense that they will never use in real life, and will soon forget.

Tech-driven competition among tribes throughout the Pleistocene distorted the human animal in a number of unnatural and unfortunate ways.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) May 04, 2014
"The female advantage in school performance in math and science did not become apparent until junior or middle school... The degree of gender difference in grades increased from elementary to middle school, but decreased between high school and college."

-And this strongly correlates with the age at which females begin bearing children and males begin fighting over repro rights, and over access to resources with enemy tribes.
Captain Stumpy
3 / 5 (2) May 04, 2014
The real "proof in the pudding" is the test scores
@Rockwolf1000
I agree with this, but when growing up, the administration of the schools didn't (not always, anyway. sometimes they did). I worked after school so I didn't have time for 8+ hours homework, but I had straight A's in tests. I did not get along with high school teachers. Poor folk cant always do homework and eat too. there is sometimes a choice that has to be made. I worked.
...all I had to do is the homework
@Benni
yeah, college was a little different... not much though (for me). I CLEP'ed a LOT of courses
harry_hackenbush
not rated yet May 16, 2014
Girls have received remedial equalizing attention while
boys, owing to the religious right, have received
transference of witchhunt of masculine insecurity,
such that they're preoccupied asserting gender
(boys hurt animals, men don't, but do if they need
asserting masculinity.)

It served the billionaire replacing democracy with
privatization and the mouthpiece demonizing whomever
disapproved.

It had a populational effect.

http://pastebin.com/AKkBttVT