Cultural Variation in Maths Gender Gap

A surprisingly large number of people are willing to uncritically accept the idea that boys outperform girls at the top end in maths performance, and that this is genetically determined (despite problems for it that we’ve noted before). Rob has pointed us to this very interesting article about cross-cultural variation. One fascinating thing is that some of the best countries for girls’ performance are Islamic ones. The authors of the original article speculate:

While of course highly speculative, these cross-country data are consistent with the hypothesis that mixed-gender classrooms are a necessary component for gender inequality to translate into poor female math performance, although it is difficult to distinguish single-sex classrooms from Islamic religion in the data.

3 thoughts on “Cultural Variation in Maths Gender Gap

  1. Interesting, Rob. I must look at that, since our field seems to be so behind. Mind you, we are working to level the playing field where we can.

    Athena Unbound mentions another hypothesis for the much higher (than us) participation of women in STEM fields in some Islamic countries. The idea is that those fields are without the prestige that they have in western countries, so the gate keeping is much less. In contrast, in those countries religion is very prestigious and it is rigidly controlled by the men.

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