NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Girls Matching Boys In Science And Math

December 17, 1998

In 1992, the American Association of University Women published a report that claimed schools were heedlessly crushing girls' self- esteem and discouraging them from taking the math and science courses they would need to compete in the workplace. Magazines, newspapers and television networks immediately pounced on the story.

Now the U.S. Department of Education has released a report based on high school transcripts that demolishes the AAUW argument.

  • In both 1990 and 1994, female high school graduates had higher enrollments than boys in first- and second-year algebra and geometry.
  • In the same years, female graduates led boys in enrollments in both biology and chemistry -- although boys led in physics, 27 percent to 22 percent.
  • In every other science course, the differences between boys and girls were slight or favored the girls.
  • The latest figures show that 43 percent of female graduates were taking a rigorous college-preparatory program in 1994, compared with only 35 percent of boys.

In 1970, women constituted only 41 percent of all college students. But today they receive 55 percent of all bachelor's degrees and 55 percent of all master's degrees.

In 1970, women earned only 8 percent of medical degrees, but 39 percent of them in 1995. Women received only 5 percent of law degrees in 1970, but 43 percent in 1995.

Analysts say the phony "gender-gap crisis" stirred up by the AAUW in 1992 has obscured the real story: the alarming learning gap between racial groups.

Source: Diane Ravitch (Brookings Institution), "Girls Are Beneficiaries of Gender Gap," Wall Street Journal, December 17, 1998


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