By Claire Cain Miller and Kevin Quealy
In much of the country, the stereotype that boys do better than girls at math isn’t true – on average, they perform about the same, at least through eighth grade. But there’s a notable exception.
In school districts that are mostly rich, white and suburban, boys are much more likely to outperform girls in math, according to a new study from Stanford researchers, one of the most comprehensive looks at the gender gap in test scores at the school district level.
The research, based on 260 million standardized test scores for third through eighth graders in nearly every district in the country, suggests that local norms influence how children perform in school from early ages – and that boys are much more influenced than girls.
“It could be about some set of expectations, it could be messages kids get early on or it could be how they’re treated in school,” said Sean Reardon, professor of poverty and inequality in education at Stanford, who conducted the study with Erin Fahle, a doctoral candidate in education policy there, and colleagues. “Something operates to help boys more than girls in some places and help girls more than boys in other places.”