Right-tail gender disparity of SAT math scores

by Grace

Could this be one of the reasons women are underrepresented in engineering and computer science?


2. Chart of the Day above illustrates graphically one of the reasons that women are under-represented in the more mathematically intensive STEM fields like engineering and computer science. In 2013, boys out-performed girls for perfect scores of 800 on the math SAT test by a male-female ratio of 1.88 to 1 (188 boys for every 100 girls), and for a near-perfect score of 790 by a ratio of exactly 2 to 1.

These facts make some people uncomfortable, as shown by the criticism Larry Summers received when he remarked on the right-tail disparity in men’s math scores.


Mark J. Perry, “Monday afternoon linkage”, Carpe Diem, July 21, 2014.


2 Comments to “Right-tail gender disparity of SAT math scores”

  1. Back in the 80’s, about 38% of CS degrees went to women. If anything, the degree was more mathematical back then (that is when I went through). Clearly women were once capable of majoring in computer science. And according to the NSF’s data, for the past decade, women have made up over 40% of math majors. I don’t think the disparity in high end SAT scores was a problem for women in CS in the 80’s, and it certainly does not seem to be a problem in math today.

    Finally, where I teach, both male and female CS majors have pretty similar, middling SAT math scores – yet only 10% of our majors are female.The barrier is not lack of high end SAT scores. It is a culture that has become more and more hostile to women over time


  2. I am under the impression that success in the math-intensive STEM fields generally requires SAT scores above 600 or so. Although other factors certainly account for some of the gender disparity, it’s hard for me to believe that the high-end SAT score ratios are not also a cause.


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