Trends in Educational Equity of Girls and Women: 2004 - Conclusion


Various indicators have been presented here to examine the extent to which males and females have access to similar educational opportunities, take advantage of those opportunities, and have similar educational outcomes. By most of these measures, females are doing at least as well as males.

Males and females begin school with similar preschool experiences, although females may have an advantage in early literacy participation experiences. Females outperform males on reading and writing assessments at fourth-, eighth-, and twelfth-grades. Throughout their elementary and secondary education, females are less likely than males to repeat grades and seem to have fewer problems that put them at risk.

While females' performance in mathematics is often perceived to be lower than that of males, NAEP results have shown few consistent gender differences over the years, particularly among younger students. Twelfth-grade NAEP assessments in mathematics and science show no significant gender differences in achievement scores. However, females were less likely to report liking math or science. This is true despite the fact that young women take equally or more challenging mathematics and science coursework than their male peers in high school (with the exception of physics, which females are slightly less likely than males to take).

Since the early 1970s, women have made gains in postsecondary education in terms of enrollment and attainment. Female high school seniors tend to have higher educational aspirations than their male peers and are more likely to enroll in college immediately after graduating from high school. Females also account for the majority of undergraduate enrollment and the majority of bachelor's degree recipients.

Gender differences in college majors persist, however, with females still predominant in somewhat lower paying fields like education, and males more likely to earn degrees in engineering, physics, and computer science. Females are also still underrepresented in first-professional programs, although they have made substantial progress toward parity in the past 30 years.

In terms of labor market outcomes, the findings are mixed and depend somewhat on factors beyond the scope of the education system. Females ages 25-34 are less likely than their male counterparts to be employed, but it is unknown to what extent this is by choice. The gap between males and females in employment rates has narrowed over time, and females with higher levels of educational attainment are employed at rates more similar to those of males than are females with lower levels of attainment. Females tend to earn less than males with similar educational attainment, but this may be partly a reflection of different patterns of labor market participation and job choice.