By Alia Wong
In recent years, the common wisdom has been that girls are dominating when it comes to academic achievement. In reading in particular, girls have consistently outperformed boys. Some studies have also found that in a typical U.S. school district, girls have all but caught up in math—a subject in which they had historically underperformed and from which they’d been discouraged thanks to persistent stereotypes about their academic interests. Take away the burden of challenging stereotypes and discriminatory beliefs and practices, the thinking goes, and girls will do just as well as boys in the STEM fields.
But now, a new study by a team of researchers led by the Stanford education professor Sean Reardon finds that girls’ dominance in school isn’t the case across demographics. Yes, the study confirms: Overall, in the average U.S. school district, girls and boys are performing about the same in math. But the study finds that in communities in which most families are affluent and white, and in which adult men far outearn women in income, girls continue to lag behind their male peers in math achievement. In some of these districts, boys on average outperformed girls in math by two-fifths of a grade level.