Is there a connection between student reading scores and the STEM gender gap?

Published in:  Education

by Pisana Ferrari – cApStAn Ambassador to the Global Village

Economists at the Paris School of Economics and Dauphine University in France believe there is. In a recent study they have analyzed data on how 300.000 teenagers in 64 countries performed on math and reading in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), in 2012. Overall, the gender gap in math performance was small (about 10%), but in the questions about intentions to pursue math in college and in their careers a bigger gender gap emerged (22%). The data also showed that girls outperformed boys in reading by a wide margin. The researchers claim this gives them a “comparative advantage” in reading i.e. they are better off focusing on the humanities because it’s an area where they are a lot more advanced than boys, whereas they’re about equal to boys in math. The difference between students’ math and reading abilities may explain up to 80% of the gender gap in students’ intentions about whether to stick with math or not. Helping boys to improve their reading skills could mean that more would pursue coursework and careers in the humanities, thus narrowing the gender gap in STEM. An interesting take on a widely debated issue.

Source: The test results that best explain the STEM gender gap are not the math scores” –

Abstract of study: Girls’ comparative advantage in reading can largely explain the gender gap in math-related fields” –

Photo credit: alexis-brown-omea @ Unsplash