Posts tagged ‘gender gap’

April 17, 2014

Teenage boys lag behind girls in developing ‘critical social skills’

by Grace

According to a six-year Dutch study, teenage boys are slower to develop two social skills.

Cognitive empathy — “the mental ability to take others’ perspective”

Affective empathy — “the ability to recognize and respond to others’ feelings”

In adolescence, critical social skills that are needed to feel concern for other people and understand how they think are undergoing major changes. Adolescence has long been known as prime time for developing cognitive skills for self-control, or executive function.

“Cognitive empathy,” or the mental ability to take others’ perspective, begins rising steadily in girls at age 13, according to a six-year study published recently in Developmental Psychology. But boys don’t begin until age 15 to show gains in perspective-taking, which helps in problem-solving and avoiding conflict.

Adolescent males actually show a temporary decline, between ages 13 and 16, in a related skill—affective empathy, or the ability to recognize and respond to others’ feelings, according to the study, co-authored by Jolien van der Graaff, a doctoral candidate in the Research Centre Adolescent Development at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Fortunately, the boys’ sensitivity recovers in the late teens. Girls’ affective empathy remains relatively high and stable through adolescence.

Affective and cognitive empathy are valuable skills in the school setting, and these gender differences could help explain why boys score as well as or better than girls on most standardized tests, yet they are far less likely to get good grades, take advanced classes or attend college”.

The scholars attributed this “misalignment” to differences in “noncognitive skills”: attentiveness, persistence, eagerness to learn, the ability to sit still and work independently. As most parents know, girls tend to develop these skills earlier and more naturally than boys.

Testosterone and social pressure may both be determining factors.

The decline in affective empathy among young teenage boys may spring at least partly from a spurt during puberty in testosterone, sparking a desire for dominance and power …

Boys also feel pressure from peers and some adults to “act like a man,” which they often define as being detached, tough, funny and strong …

How much do fathers matter?

Fathers seem to play a special role. Teens whose fathers are supportive, who say they feel better after talking over their worries with their dads, are more skilled at perspective-taking, says a 2011 study of 15- to 18-year-old boys in Developmental Psychology.

Ambiguous terminology in the use of “cognitive” and “noncognitive” can be confusing.  The term”noncognitive” seems to vary in meaning depending on context.  Daniel Willingham helps explain how it is sometimes used as shorthand for what many people consider “non-academic” skills.

“Non-cognitive factors” is a misleading but entrenched catch-all term for factors such as motivation, grit, self-regulation, social skills. . . in short, mental constructs that we think contribute to student success, but that don’t contribute directly to the sorts of academic outcomes we measure, in the way that, say, vocabulary or working memory do.

Boys can try to catch up to girls.

I keep hearing that boys tend to shape up and mature after freshman year in high school.  That has not been my observation, but even if they do this just means they have to catch up to girls in a few short years or else suffer long-term consequences from getting off track in their early teen years.

——

Sue Shellenbarger, “Teens Are Still Developing Empathy Skills”, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 15, 2013.

September 11, 2013

Harvard Business School gives itself a ‘gender makeover’ to ‘foster female success’

by Grace

Here is the problem, at least as perceived by many:

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As a way to close this gender salary gap, Harvard Business School set out to give itself a gender makeover, changing its curriculum, rules and social rituals to foster female success“.

It is an ambitious plan, intended  “to change how students spoke, studied and socialized”.

But in 2010, Drew Gilpin Faust, Harvard’s first female president, appointed a new dean who pledged to do far more than his predecessors to remake gender relations at the business school. He and his team tried to change how students spoke, studied and socialized….

Am I the only one who thinks this sounds a little creepy?

… The school saw itself as the standard-bearer for American business. Turning around its record on women, the new administrators assured themselves, could have an untold impact at other business schools, at companies populated by Harvard alumni and in the Fortune 500, where only 21 chief executives are women. The institution would become a laboratory for studying how women speak in group settings, the links between romantic relationships and professional status, and the use of everyday measurement tools to reduce bias.

Many of us are familiar with the gender wage gap, including the part about women often feeling they have “to choose between academic and social success” and that business schools see their graduates “part by gender after graduation, with more men going into higher-paying areas like finance and more women going into lower-paying ones like marketing”.

But I didn’t realize that a typical HBS female student had to “be taught how to raise her hand”.  Who knew that these best and brightest examples of high-achieving women were such wallflowers?  Apparently they need coaching on how to participate effectively in classes where men tend to take over discussions.

… Reach up assertively! No apologetic little half-waves! …

Women at Harvard did fine on tests. But they lagged badly in class participation, a highly subjective measure that made up 50 percent of each final mark. Every year the same hierarchy emerged early on: investment bank and hedge fund veterans, often men, sliced through equations while others — including many women — sat frozen or spoke tentatively. The deans did not want to publicly dwell on the problem: that might make the women more self-conscious. But they lectured about respect and civility, expanded efforts like the hand-raising coaching and added stenographers in every class so professors would no longer rely on possibly biased memories of who had said what.

Marianne Bertrand from the Chicago Booth School of Business recently gave a presentation that included a list of “documented robust gender differences in a set of psychological attributes”.

–Women are more risk averse
–Women negotiate less/women do not ask
–Women perform more poorly in competitive environments and shy away from such competitive environments
–Women lack in self-confidence (while men tend to be overly confident)

Even if the environment can be modified to promote more women into corporate leadership roles, Bertrand points out that policy responses will only be effective if we can confirm that these are learned behaviors.

… Innate or learned? nature vs. nurture?  …

Related:  Women who graduated from highly selective colleges more likely to drop out of workforce (Cost of College)

July 5, 2013

The struggling middle class – working hard or hardly working?

by Grace

It may seem simplistic, but perhaps an attitude adjustment would improve the outlook for our uncertain economic future.

Charles Blow wrote about the The Morose Middle Classciting several polls showing Americans are worried about a shrinking middle class.

According to the poll, Americans see a middle class with less opportunity to get ahead, less job security and less disposable income than the middle class of previous generations.

I have some recent posts on this theme of a hollowed out middle class, with Megan McArdle citing technology and trade as main culprits.  And although “education is not a solution by itself”, most of us still believe in its value for at least keeping us out of poverty.

Most of those polled believe that higher education is the key to staying in the middle class, but many worry about its prohibitive cost and inaccessibility.

What about a willingness to work hard?

There is no denying that soaring costs have created a formidable barrier to higher education.  But beyond soaring college costs, technology, and trade, it might be argued that weakened stamina for hard work is even more to blame for our economic woes.

The Atlantic gives us a story about John, a young man who feels like he’s “working really hard, but he’s not getting ahead”.

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Is he working really hard?  The details of John’s story failed to convince me.

  • He was an unmotivated high school student, graduating with a C-average.
  • His parents encouraged him to attend college, and paid for it.
  • But he dropped out after two years, struggling with math and science.
  • He is now 29 years old, working as a preschool teacher making $11 an hour — about $23,000 a year.
  • He lives in a “cluttered” house, owned by his parents and rented to him at a discount.
  • He “wants’ to go back to school and “thinks” about getting a second job.
  • He sometimes gets angry, but also admits he “kind of” blames himself.

Various factors influence economic success.

“Economic mobility is not predetermined,” says Erin Currier, project manager of Pew’s Economic Mobility Project, “but our research has shown that a host of drivers and factors can influence a person’s chances of moving up or falling down.” These determinants fall into three categories: social capital (who you know and where you live); financial capital (your savings and access to credit); and human capital (your education).

John’s parents have tried to help him with social capital (John rebuffed his dad’s offers to help him find a job at the railroad) and financial capital (the house with discounted rent, although no help with tuition). What he needs is more human capital. For that, his parents can’t help much, except to offer encouragement. “He’s smart enough to go to college,” Greg says. Beth adds: “We still want better for him, we really do. But we don’t know what to do.”

From a comment to this story:

… I’ve never met a kid in college who actually “worked hard” (shown up every day, did the work, went to office hours, etc.) and still failed. I’ve met dozens of kids who did none of those things, but then complained when they failed the tests.

It appears John lacks more than “human capital”.  What about persistence and a willingness to work hard?

This is what working hard looks like:
The other day I met a young man at a car rental place.  He was quite engaging, and chatted about his work life.  Washing cars and shuttling customers at the rental company is his second job.  His main job is driving a UPS truck for 42 hours a week.  In total, he works about 70-80 hours a week.  He said he hardly had time to see his girlfriend, but she understood.  He was making good money.  I didn’t learn if he was planning to attend college, and I cannot predict how this young man will fare in the increasingly competitive workforce of the future.  But I am convinced he really is “working hard”, and that his chances of future success are higher than those of John, the college dropout profiled in The Atlantic.

June 26, 2013

Quick Links – Contranyms; affirmative action drama continues; boys problems

by Grace

TIL a word that can be its own antonym is called a contranym.

Also referred to as an auto-antonym or Janus word

Some examples from Daily Writing Tips:

  • Bolt: To secure, or to flee
  • Dust: To add fine particles, or to remove them
  • Flog: To promote persistently, or to criticize or beat
  • Sanction: To approve, or to boycott
  • Trim: To decorate, or to remove excess from

Here’s an example from contemporary slang:  …”bitch” can refer to someone who’s domineering or submissive.

* * * * *

‘So the drama over affirmative action continues’.

From the WSJ:

The Supreme Court, in an anticlimax, sidestepped a sweeping ruling on affirmative action Monday, directing lower courts to re-examine whether a race-conscious admissions program at the University of Texas at Austin should survive constitutional scrutiny.

Summed up in a Chronicle of Higher Ed headline:

Supreme Court Puts New Pressure on Colleges to Justify Affirmative Action

* * * * *

This might be an iconic photo, emblematic of the “boys problem” in our schools.

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These young women are the senior class officers at a local public high school* that held graduation last week.  They look like a fine group of accomplished, motivated students.

* No, this is not an all-girls school.

April 5, 2013

To eliminate the gender wage gap, don’t let women major in sociology

by Grace

Advice on how to eliminate the gender wage gap from Christina Hoff Sommers:

Talented young women who aspire to be rich and powerful would be advised to major in economics or electrical engineering rather than psychology or social work. They should be prepared to work 60 hours a week at the office rather than combining shorter hours with home, family, and other pursuits they find fulfilling. Those who stick with this course will find that their W-2s are equal to those of their male counterparts.

While some sex discrimination undoubtedly exists, it is does not appear to be the reason for most of the gender wage gap.  The gap mainly arises from the choices women make about their jobs and their families.  Perhaps some women need to be “empowered” to make different decisions, but I suspect most women already exercise free choice.

… But American women today are as independent-minded and self-determining as any in history. It is condescending to suggest that they have been manipulated when they choose home and family over high-octane careers—or to pursue degrees in education rather than engineering.

Related:  The Gender Wage Gap Is Getting Worse (thinkprogress.org)

April 4, 2013

Missing fathers are at the core of a ‘vicious cycle’ of poverty

by Grace

Missing fathers are both a cause and an effect of poverty

The decline of two-parent households may be a significant reason for the divergent fortunes of male workers, whose earnings generally declined in recent decades, and female workers, whose earnings generally increased, a prominent labor economist argues in a new survey of existing research.

MIT professor David H. Autor examined the poverty of single-parent families for Third Way, a center-left policy research organization.

In this telling, the economic struggles of male workers are both a cause and an effect of the breakdown of traditional households. Men who are less successful are less attractive as partners, so some women are choosing to raise children by themselves, in turn often producing sons who are less successful and attractive as partners.

“A vicious cycle may ensue,” wrote Professor Autor and his co-author, Melanie Wasserman, a graduate student, “with the poor economic prospects of less educated males creating differentially large disadvantages for their sons, thus potentially reinforcing the development of the gender gap in the next generation.”

Encourage marriage or pump up the economy?  Is it a chicken or egg scenario?

Conservatives have long argued that society should encourage stable parental relationships. A recent report by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia concluded that promoting marriage is the best way “to make family life more stable for children whose parents don’t enjoy the benefit of a college education.”

Liberals have tended to argue that the government should focus instead on improving economic opportunities. Jonathan Cowan, the president of Third Way, said the paper underscored that addressing social problems was a means to improve economic opportunities.

Here’s an idea.

Instead of making marriage more attractive, he said, it might be better for society to help make men more attractive.

—————————

The chance of a child ending up poor declines by 82 percent when raised in a two-parent family.

Although correlation does not imply causation, there’s no doubt that a caring father adds tremendous value to a child’s upbringing.

According to the U.S. census, the poverty rate for single parents with children in the U.S. in 2009 was 37.1 percent. For married families the rate was only 6.8 percent. The chance of a child ending up poor declines by 82 percent when raised in a two-parent family. As the Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector reports, “Some of this difference in poverty is due to the fact that single parents tend to have less education than married couples.” Even adjusting for that factor “the married poverty rate will still be more than 75 percent lower.”

————————–

Fathers have been disappearing from homes across America over the last 50 years.

… Fifteen million U.S. children, or 1 in 3, live without a father, and nearly 5 million live without a mother. In 1960, just 11 percent of American children lived in homes without fathers.

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America is awash in poverty, crime, drugs and other problems, but more than perhaps anything else, it all comes down to this, said Vincent DiCaro, vice president of the National Fatherhood Initiative: Deal with absent fathers, and the rest follows.

March 22, 2013

Maybe men are smart to skip college

by Grace

Percent of U.S. Adults Ages 25-29 With a Bachelor’s Degree or Higher, 1969-2009
20130319.COCCollegeEnrollmentGender1

Maybe men are avoiding college because it offers them a lower ROI compared to women, at least in the short term.

Men without college degrees face better job prospects than equivalently educated women, at least in the short term. That makes the consequences of dropping out appear smaller for men.

The paper, by sociologists Rachel Dwyer and Randy Hodson of Ohio State University and Laura McCloud of Pacific Lutheran University, used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth to look at the educational and employment experiences of more than 6,500 Americans born between 1980 and 1984. Unsurprisingly, going to college boosted earnings for both men and women. But the gap was much wider for women. After controlling for various demographic factors, the researchers found that female graduates earned more than $6,500 more per year than women with just a high school diploma, and more than $4,500 more than women who dropped out of college. Male graduates, by contrast, earned only about $2,700 more than high school graduates, and about the same amount as male college drop-outs.

The findings are consistent with past research, which has showed that jobs are much more gender-segregated in low-education occupations. Female drop-outs tend to concentrate in low-paying service-sector jobs, whereas less-educated men are more likely to find work in better-paying industries such as manufacturing and construction.

“Women experience a much larger immediate economic penalty for not graduating from college than do men,” the authors write. “Female dropouts simply face worse job prospects than do male dropouts.”

This might play a role in motivating women to do well in high school.

“Young men who see high school friends with relatively well-paying jobs may resist taking on debt to gain a degree with uncertain returns,” the authors write. “At the same time, young women who see friends in low-paying female-dominated jobs, such as retail cashier or day care worker, may be spurred to stay in school, even with debt.”

Over the long term, skipping college may not be such a smart move.

… The wage gap between men with and without bachelor’s degrees starts small but grows over time as better-educated men enjoy more opportunities for career advancement. And as the recession showed, those well-paying jobs in construction and manufacturing can disappear quickly and be slow to return….

Tags:
March 8, 2013

Lack of college-educated men may be a reason for declining marriage numbers

by Grace

The lack of college-educated men may signal more problems for the future of marriage.

The importance of marriage is on the rise among women while decreasing among men.

 … According to Pew Research Center, the share of women ages eighteen to thirty-four that say having a successful marriage is one of the most important things in their lives rose nine percentage points since 1997 – from 28 percent to 37 percent. For men, the opposite occurred. The share voicing this opinion dropped, from 35 percent to 29 percent.

Gender imbalance may be creating an obstacle to marriage for college-educated women.

… Across the United States today, young women are much more likely to graduate from college than their male peers, a trend that’s been compounding itself for a few decades now. And because college graduates overwhelmingly tend to date other college graduates, that’s created an enormous imbalance in the national dating pool. In Portland, the situation is particularly dire. According to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, there are 33 percent more women in Portland who are under the age of 35 and have at least a bachelor’s degree in than there are men. That’s on par with New York, which is notorious for its lopsided gender ratio.  

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Marriage is on the decline, and the lack of college-educated men suggests a continuation of this trend for highly educated women, a group that has been most resistant to the trend so far.

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Where to find college-educated men
Recently I was at local watering hole on one of their ladies’ nights, a practice I mistakenly thought had been ruled illegal.  By the looks of the crowd, I would say that young women looking for college-educated men of marrying age might want to check this place out.  Promoting itself as “definitely worth the 30 minute train ride from” New York City, this establishment might be especially attractive to NYC women who are experiencing the effects of that city’s gender imbalance.  But considering the long-term trend, I wonder if we’ll soon be seeing “men’s nights” at these types of places.

Related:

March 6, 2013

Quick Links – Title IX for boys; digital learning works better for some; higher funding does not equate with higher graduation rates; more

by Grace

◊◊◊  Glenn Reynolds suggests we should consider ‘Title IX for our boys’

… If schoolteachers were overwhelmingly male and girls were suffering as a result, there would be a national outcry and Title IX-style gender equity legislation would be touted. Why should we do less when boys are the ones suffering?

◊◊◊  ‘For older students, women and high achievers, the difference between online learning and face-to-face learning is small.’

Digital learning is expanding access to higher education, but may be widening the  achievement gap. Students who have trouble learning in a traditional classroom have even more trouble learning online, concludes a study of community college students in Washington state. For older students, women and high achievers, the difference between online learning and face-to-face learning is small.

Online courses can widen learning gap (Joanne Jacobs)

◊◊◊  Texas comes out looking good in latest Department of Education of Education report.

The Department of Education has just released its first state-by-state comparison of education statistics, and the report has a few surprises. Texas performed extremely well, tying five other states for the third-best graduation rate in the country, at 86 percent.

And Texas isn’t the only high-performing red state: Indiana, Nebraska, North Dakota and Tennessee all place within the top ten as well. Meanwhile, New York, Rhode Island, and California, all of which take a traditional, high-spending, blue model approach to education, are closer to the middle of the pack , with graduation rates in the mid-70s.

This is convincing evidence against the popular notion that we can fix the public education system if only we are willing to spend more money. Not only does Texas do a better job of graduating its students than its blue state competition; it does so at a fraction of the cost per student.

Education reformers should pay close attention to how Texas achieved these results. Clearly, it’s doing something right.

The Texas Education Miracle (Via Media)

◊◊◊  The 10 Colleges Most Likely to Make You a Billionaire (Harvard Is #1) (The Atlantic)

In news that will shock no-one, earning a Crimson pedigree may be the surest-fire way to amass greenbacks. Almost 3,000 graduates of Harvard University are worth more than $30 million (each), according to rankings compiled by market research firm Wealth-X seen by Quartz, and most of them earned the money themselves. That’s more than twice the number of what Wealth-X calls “ultra-high-net-worth individuals” (UHNWIs) produced by any other institution in the world….

  • Of course, the top of the list is rather dense with Ivy. But even among top schools, wealth varies greatly: while the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University graduated a combined 2,390 UHNWIs, Yale, Princeton and Cornell count among them only 1,604, in total.
  • Of the US schools in Wealth-X’s Global top 20, just three are public: University of Virginia, the University of Michigan and University of California, Berkeley.
  • At least in the US, having a business school probably helps. The top five on the global list–Harvard, Penn, Stanford University, Columbia and New York University, in that order–all have top-flight MBA programs. Of the top 15, only Princeton lacks a B-school. On the non-US list, meanwhile, France’s Insead and LBS are both exclusively graduate business schools.
February 20, 2013

Quick Links – Obama on education; stereotyping boys; chimps have better working memories than those of humans

by Grace

◊◊◊  Obama on education in State of Union address (Washington Post)

Universal ‘high-quality’ preschool

Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America.  Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on – by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime.  In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or Oklahoma, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, and form more stable families of their own.  So let’s do what works, and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind.  Let’s give our kids that chance.

High-tech curriculum for high schools

…  Tonight, I’m announcing a new challenge to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy.  We’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math – the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill jobs right now and in the future.

Link higher education federal aid with ‘affordability and value’

Tonight, I ask Congress to change the Higher Education Act, so that affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid….

College Scorecard

…  And tomorrow, my Administration will release a new “College Scorecard” that parents and students can use to compare schools based on a simple criteria: where you can get the most bang for your educational buck.


◊◊◊  “..the study found that stereotypes seemed to be holding boys back.” (Dr. Helen at PJ Media)

Boys may be suffering from stereotype threat.

The belief that girls are brainier and better behaved is holding boys back at school, research suggests.

A study of British pupils found that, from a young age, children think girls are academically superior.

And, what’s more, they believe that adults think so too….

And by the age of seven, boys shared the belief that they were naughtier and did less well at school. Follow-up questions showed the children thought that adults had similar expectations.

The second part of the study found that stereotypes seemed to be holding boys back…

Study co-author Dr Robbie Sutton said: ‘Our study suggests that by counteracting the stereotypes in the classroom – wherever they might have come from originally – we can help boys do better.’

Noncognitive skills come into play in boys’ poor school performance.

This reminds me of the study I found on girls taking over at college. In it the researchers state:

One source of the persistent female advantage in K–12 school performance and the new female lead in college attainment is the higher incidence of behavioral problems (or lower level of noncognitive skills) among boys. Boys have a much higher incidence than do girls of school disciplinary and behavior problems, and spend far fewer hours doing homework (Jacob, 2002).

Are boys’ poor behavior and low academic performance partly due to low expectations?  Dr. Helen wonders if teachers tend to use grades to punish boys since other discipline options are more limited.  A related aspect is that much of early academic success may hinge on noncognitive and literacy skills, which boys tend to develop later than girls.


◊◊◊
  Working memory of chimpanzees is ‘far better’ than that of humans

Chimpanzees can far outperform humans in some mental tasks, including rapidly memorising and recalling numbers, Japanese scientists have shown.

A good working memory is needed to survive in the wild.

Prof Matsuzawa, who combines the study of wild chimpanzees in west Africa with research using the captive colony in Kyoto, said such a good working memory – the ability to take in an accurate, detailed image of a complex scene or pattern – was an important survival tool in the wild.

For example, the apes can quickly assess and remember the distribution of edible fruit in a forest canopy. Or, when two rival bands of chimpanzees encounter one another, they can assess the strength of the rival group and decide whether to fight or flee.

Memory of chimps ‘far better than human’ (Financial Times)

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