Do Boys Have a Comparative Advantage in Math and Science?

Even with a question mark my title, Do Boys Have a Comparative Advantage in Math and Science, is likely to appear sexist. Am I suggesting the boys are better at math and science than girls? No, I am suggesting they might be worse.

Consider first the so-called gender-equality paradox, namely the finding that countries with the highest levels of gender equality tend to have the lowest ratios of women to men in STEM education. Stoet and Geary put it well:

Finland excels in gender equality (World Economic Forum, 2015), its adolescent girls outperform boys in science literacy, and it ranks second in European educational performance (OECD, 2016b). With these high levels of educational performance and overall gender equality, Finland is poised to close the STEM gender gap. Yet, paradoxically, Finland has one of the world’s largest gender gaps in college degrees in STEM fields, and Norway and Sweden, also leading in gender-equality rankings, are not far behind (fewer than 25% of STEM graduates are women). We will show that this pattern extends throughout the world…

(Recent papers have found the paradox holds in other measures of education such as MOOCs and in other measures of behavior and personality. Hat tip on these: Rolf Degen.)

Two explanations for this apparent paradox have been offered. First, countries with greater gender equality tend to be richer and have larger welfare states than countries with less gender equality. As a result, less is riding on choice of career in the richer, gender-equal countries. Even if STEM fields pay more, we would expect small differences in personality that vary with gender would become more apparent as income increases. Paraphrasing John Adams, only in a rich country are people feel free to pursue their interests more than their needs. If women are somewhat less interested in STEM fields than men, then we would expect this difference to become more apparent as income increases.

A second explanation focuses on ability. Some people argue that more men than women have extraordinary ability levels in math and science because of greater male variability in most characteristics. Let’s put that hypothesis to the side. Instead, lets think about individuals and their relative abilities in reading, science and math–this what Stoet and Geary call an intra-individual score. Now consider the figure below which is based on PISA test data from approximately half a million students across many countries. On the left are raw scores (normalized). Focus on the colors, red is for reading, blue is science and green is mathematics. Negative scores (scores to the left of the vertical line) indicate that females scores higher than males, positive scores that males score higher on average than females. Females score higher than males in reading in every country surveyed. Females also score higher than males in science and math in some countries.

Now consider the data on the right. In this case, Stoet and Geary ask for each student what subject are they relatively best at and then they average by country. The differences by sex are now even even more prominent. Not only are females better at reading but even in countries where they are better at math and science than boys on average they are relatively better at reading.

Thus, even when girls outperformed boys in science, as was the case in Finland, girls generally performed even better in reading, which means that their individual strength was, unlike boys’ strength, reading.

Now consider what happens when students are told. Do what you are good at! Loosely speaking the situation will be something like this: females will say I got As in history and English and B’s in Science and Math, therefore, I should follow my strengthens and specialize in drawing on the same skills as history and English. Boys will say I got B’s in Science and Math and C’s in history and English, therefore, I should follow my strengths and do something involving Science and Math.

Note that this is consistent with the Card and Payne study of Canadian high school students that I disscused in my post, The Gender Gap in STEM is NOT What You Think. Quoting Card and Payne:

On average, females have about the same average grades in UP (“University Preparation”, AT) math and sciences courses as males, but higher grades in English/French and other qualifying courses that count toward the top 6 scores that determine their university rankings. This comparative advantage explains a substantial share of the gender difference in the probability of pursing a STEM major, conditional on being STEM ready at the end of high school.

and myself:

Put (too) simply the only men who are good enough to get into university are men who are good at STEM. Women are good enough to get into non-STEM and STEM fields. Thus, among university students, women dominate in the non-STEM fields and men survive in the STEM fields.

Finally Stoet and Geary show that the above considerations also explain the gender-equality paradox because the intra-individual differences are largest in the most gender equal countries. In the figure below on the left are the intra individual differences in science by gender which increase with gender equality. A higher score means that boys are more likely to have science as a relative strength (i.e. women may get absolutely better at everything with gender equality but the figure suggests that they get relatively better at reading) and on the right the share of women going into STEM fields which decreases with gender equality.

The male dominance in STEM fields is usually seen as due to a male advantage and a female disadvantage (whether genetic, cultural or otherwise). Stoet and Geary show that the result could instead be due to differences in relative advantage. Indeed, the theory of comparative advantage tells us that we could push this even further than Stoet and Geary. It could be the case, for example, that males are worse on average than females in all fields but they specialize in the field in which they are the least worst, namely science and math. In other words, boys could have an absolute disadvantage in all fields but a comparative advantage in math and science. I don’t claim that theory is true but it’s worth thinking about a pure case to understand how the same pattern can be interpreted in diametrically different ways.


Professional math and engineering isn't done by the average cohort, but generally only the top few percent of the population. Comparing average pisa scores would not be very useful here.

I find it hard to accept without evidence that test scores are unbiased measurements of skill. This post shows that men are worse than women in all fields, but perhaps the modern educational system simply grades them that way.

At some point testing needs to be reconciled with real world achievement.

Actually there is a lot of evidence that girls receive higher grades and by the same logic therefore schools discriminate against boys.

There are a tons of engineering jobs that don't require "top few percent" levels of skill. You don't need a PhD. Most entry level positions only require a B.S.

Getting an engineering B.S. probably puts in you in the top 10-20% or so of intelligence, maybe higher. I think Patrick was referring to top few percent of the population as a whole, not top few percent of college graduates or engineering graduates.

The typical engineer is in the upper 3% to 5%.

Link? I find this claim dubious, having studied with knuckleheads in a top 5 engineering undergrad program.

"Link? I find this claim dubious, having studied with knuckleheads in a top 5 engineering undergrad program."

"Engineers (civil and mechanical)125"

"An IQ of 120 therefore implies that the testee is brighter than about 91% of the population, while 130 puts a person ahead of 98% of people."

You likely have a distorted realization of top 3-5% intelligence. If everyone at the school was in the top 5% then it changes how you view the top 5%.

Some knuckleheads can do well in engineering classes but no knucklehead can do well on an IQ test. That's why colleges look at SAT scores.

True, but the set of students who complete a B.S. in engineering is likely concentrated among the highest percentiles in math ability. Not "top few percent", necessarily, but as you move down the bell curve the odds of someone 1. being interested in pursuing an engineering degree in the first place, and 2. being capable of completing an engineering degree goes down.

Yes, but the same principle may apply even among the highest cohort of math performers. If you were to look at the top 5% of math scorers on the SAT, from among all students, I would guess that the % of males in this group who *also* have a high verbal score is lower than that same measure for females. So, while the set of high math scorers is skews male, the fact that more females in this group "have other options" (i.e. high verbal ability) is likely exacerbate the gender imbalance even further.

What would lead you to think that? Boys also score a bit higher on average than girls in the verbal section but recently essentially equal:

"Initially the gap was small, but the disparity grew, and during the 1980s the gender gap in verbal scores ranged from 10 to 13 points. The gap has narrowed since then, with the average score of female examinees coming within four points of the male average in 2015."

Maybe just anecdotal experience. I've met a lot of high-math males who can't write. The number of high-math women I've met is much smaller, but they seemed more well-rounded in terms of ability. Maybe a sample size problem.

Yes, Ricardo's theorem in action. Very interesting hypothesis.

In absolutely no way is it sexist to suggest that men are generally inherently better at some things and women at others.

Why are you so terrified of this truth?

Moreover, one could infer (but not deduce) from Alex’s tone that the average boy being absolutely worse off at everything vis-a-vis the average girl is not sexist.

Hopefully Alex did not mean this, but if you believe (a) the idea that the average boy is inherently better at X compared to the average girl is sexist (or potentially sexist) and (b) believe the idea that the average girl is inherently better at everything compared to the average boy is not sexist, then (c) that’s extremely sexist.

Hopefully Alex clarifies this is not what he meant.

In case you hadn't noticed:

1. They work for an academic institution, and not a dissenting institution.

2. An underlying theme of the blog is that the moderators are men without chests.

3. Mercatus is to GMU what Jennifer Rubin and David Brooks are to an Op-Ed page: a way to provide a simulacrum of contention while avoiding provision of the real thing.

4. Still, the argument as presented is transparent enough that it borders on the arch: men are drawn to well-compensated occupations with robust operational measures of competence because they're just so incompetent at appreciating imaginative literature, teaching young children to read, inspecting the homes of aspirant foster mothers, or waking you up in the middle of the night to give you your sleeping pill. We have to do something with this subpar labor, so we put them to work building bridges and running nuclear power plants. QED.

'Mercatus is to GMU what Jennifer Rubin and David Brooks are to an Op-Ed page: a way to provide a simulacrum of contention while avoiding provision of the real thing. '

Not even close. GMU is a Commonwealth of Virginia taxpayer funded institution of higher education.

The Mercatus Center is a completely private public policy institute with exactly zero connection to the public university - the Commonwealth provides zero funding for the Mercatus Center, for example.

The Mercatus Center attempts to use the imprimatur of being 'at' GMU to enhance its credibility in the public policy debates it would be forbidden from engaging in if it was actually a part of GMU.

I think you are missing the point about comparative advantage. Alex is saying that the observation that men tend to be a larger proportion of STEM folks than their proportion of the population would suggest is consistent with a world where women are better at everything, but have comparative advantages outside of STEM. He isn't saying that women ARE better at everything, just that the observation "Huh, there are a lot more men in STEM fields" lines up with lots of possible worlds, not just the one where women are kept out of STEM one way or the other.

I don't think that the authors of the blog are entirely "men without chests". As you note, their arguments often border on the "arch", and the authors frequently call things Straussian, indicating that perhaps they themselves are esoteric writers, at least on subjects that could get them fired or banished from polite public discourse. That isn't, in my mind, being a public intellectual "without a chest". Rather, it is a strategic decision that they can influence public opinion more productively by appearing to stay on the right side of cultural Marxists while actually putting forwards arguments that undercut belief in, and support of, all the fashionable and necessary creeds of current cultural Marxism. If they did cross that line, they would be fired, and no one would listen to them (and they don't have the right personalities for that anyway; I don't think either of them lift weights like Nassim Taleb).

Why is it so important to you to have that asserted to be "truth" ?

"In absolutely no way is it sexist to suggest that men are generally inherently better at some things and women at others."

Clearly there's no fear of being thought sexist for suggesting that women are inherently better at everything ;)

Congratulations on writing this post in a way that probably won't lead to a Twitter mob getting you fired.

Notice however this AlexT post as of the moment, 1.5 hours after being posted, only has seven (7) comments. Usually AlexT writes more provocatively (aka 'trolling') and has dozens of posts. It's still young, but I predict this post won't have more than about 30 comments, due to AlexT's 'even-handed' tone. Take note AlexT, next time be less equivocal.

Bonus trivia: do we really want a rapist as US Sup court justice? Even when drunk, I've never acted out impulses, though I've said stupid stuff.

We should have a markets in everything; comment length futures.

Wrong again, Ray.

What did you DO, Ray?

Or stated another way, men are so bad at reading that STEM is their only possible path to success even though women are better than men at reading and STEM. Thus, men choose STEM because it's their only choice and women choose reading because that's what they are best at. Here's an oddity: Women are better at reading than men, thus suggesting they would make better lawyers and judges, yet there are very few women in the Federalist Society (which is the pipeline to court appointments). I suspect it's because the policies supported by women are not the policies supported by the Federalist Society. Given the predominance of men in the Federalist Society, isn't it logical to conclude that lawyers in the Federalist Society are not the best lawyers in the country. Sure, they may be among the best male lawyers, but not all lawyers.

Confusing mean with tails. The best lawyers are a different cohort from the average population. Your assumptions are that the distributions in aptitude for males and females is the same and all that matters is aptitude (as opposed to eg obsessive devotion to a career).

Also not all judges flow from Fed Soc. Your obsession with the Fed Soc is worrying.

The Federalist society is explicitly right-wing. I'm sure women are members of ACS in much higher numbers

I wouldn't be so sure. Women generally don't enjoy political contention as much as men do.

Should we also conclude from this study, that the only thing men are actually better at is killing? Because if men are worse at EVERYTHING, we wouldn't have patriarchy. It is physical strength that made men into rulers of society, right? Makes you wonder about quality of such society and how far off from imaginary Klingons are we.

No. The smart capable women got pregnant as soon as they reached physical maturity.

A family story says of my grandmother that post WW 1 she was arranging to go to law school. She met my grandfather, then had 5 children, then was widowed with young children. The law career didn't happen.

You can skip reading this post after the author decides that suggesting that girls are worse is sexist, but suggesting otherwise is not.


Yes, we have to have a sense of humor to read this blog.

In the end, it is all a farce.

Does Alex do the "Straussian" thing?

No one knows, to be honest.

The employment signal in the Ricardian model is however wages, not grades. Given the wage differential, why would a woman with an absolute advantage in STEM not choose to do it? Does the welfare state really compensate women who choose lower wage (and thus lower productivity according to Ricardo) degrees? That's a perverse incentive if I ever saw one...

So what you're saying is that we can get more women into STEM by making high school English classes less enjoyable.

That would be hard to do.

Alex Tabarrok is a slimy excuse for a human being

Trying to square with vague memory of high school: I guess girls figured Tabarrok's thesis out so early that they would mesmerize the boys into finishing their math homework for them in the five minutes before class, even though they themselves could actually do it better and faster. This gave them time to touch up their makeup, and catch up on who liked who. Brilliant.

I don't actually remember that actually happening in my high school. The girls pretty much did their own math homework (privately, where they could keep it a secret), or decided it was too boring to do. Getting the boys to do it for them was not really a thing.

I am male, and was pretty high performing at math in high school. I would gladly have copied a girl's homework if she'd let me. Because...homework sucks.

Oh my god, so many people here are so bad at understanding.
"is likely to appear sexist" (the exact Alex's words) is not the same as "is sexist" (what many of you attacking him seem to have read). And Alex is right -- anything that suggests that the greater number of men in STEM, especially at the highest levels, is for some reason what it should be (because men are stronger on average, or because they are not but the upper tail has more men for reason if higher variability or because men are worse than women in STEM in absolute terms but are better in relative terms, or simply because women like STEM less) and not a terrible injustice that has to be corrected by large dose of affirmative action, as I say anything like this will be called "sexist" in academia (or at google) and will very possibly get you fired. So I don't know if Alex's hypothesis is correct in part, but it is fun, and if you're against the Hitlero-feminists that run academia, you'd better support Tabarrok.

I don't mean to nitpick (though that is exactly what I am doing), but "is likely to appear sexist" has connotations along the lines of "a normal reader will find this sexist", ergo those who don't find it sexist are being slightly "abnormal". I didn't myself interpret that way, but only because I have read enough posts of Tabarrok to know that what he means is more like "The most vocal responders to such an assertion may be rabble-rouser SJWs who will find it sexist".

That sentence about "Hitlero-feminists" was music to my ears, BTW.

The fact that men are more expected to be breadwinners in our culture is probably a factor. Women know that whatever career they choose, they probably aren't going to be the sole income, and if they marry a guy with a career, they will probably have to move around with him. So it's generally not a good idea to specialize too deeply, since you will have to be able to move around and either find a job anywhere, or drop out for five years to have kids. STEM jobs tend to be pretty specialized and if you're out of work for five years technology has moved on by the time you get back.

I think there is probably some truth here. And also that women have a an absolute and comparative advantage in child rearing.

My wife is has a MS in a stem field and has had a very nice career in that field. But of her fellow female STEM graduates from grad school only about half are still in the field. The rest left the job market entirely to be stay at home mothers or found careers that fit better fit in with parenting.

And in our immediate social set we see it all the time. Mothers who have PHD's, law degrees, medical degrees, MBAs all leave the job market to be stay at home parents.

Right, I think someone posted an article a couple of weeks ago, talking about the cost of child care and how difficult it is to arrange work and child-care schedules, which tends to result in women dropping out of the workforce even when they would rather not. Like the fact that school in many places lets out of 3:30 , so someone has to pick the kids up. There may or may not be an after school program, and child neglect laws have become so onerous you can't let them walk home and let themselves in. So one parent has to drive home to pick them up, which means you have to live close to work, which might not be affordable, or else someone has to make up hours on evening or weekends.
or if you have to drop them off at day care, there might not be a daycare that is on the way to work, which means more time spent driving during morning rush hour.
There are a lot of regulations regarding child care workers which make childcare for working parents more expensive and less accessible, and the system simply is not designed to accommodate parents who have to work late and can't pick their kids up until after 6.

There are several approaches that I think are needed here:
1. Cut back on regulations on child care, so there is cheaper more accessible daycare.
2. Cultural change so men take on more of the burdens of childrearing such as picking up kids from school and sick days.
3. More in-building or on-campus daycare at larger employers, and/or more daycares located in and around commercial office space - maybe changes by zoning boards and planning commisions to allow more space for daycares to locate right in office complexes. It's possible people just aren't thinking of these things - they have space for lunch restaurants for workers but not daycares for parents.
4. Changes in the public school system to accommodate working parents, such as longer school hours (i.e. 9-5) , summer programs.
5. Changes in child neglect standards so that parents can, for instance, let their kids walk home alone, or use public transportation to after school programs.
6. This all means there are market opportunities for businesses to cater to these needs, if the regulations would allow. For example, special Uber drivers that are bonded and insured so they are allowed to pick up kids and take them home. Lots more day care centers in office complexes is another one. Of course it's an ecosystem - there has to be a market for them, but there won't be a market if they don't exist. We could go back to point 1 here and look at regulations that make it hard to operate a day care.

"Like the fact that school in many places lets out of 3:30 , so someone has to pick the kids up. There may or may not be an after school program, and child neglect laws have become so onerous you can't let them walk home and let themselves in. So one parent has to drive home to pick them up, which means you have to live close to work, which might not be affordable, or else someone has to make up hours on evening or weekends."

The day cares pick up the kids from school and take them to day care until the work day is over

Or in the case of my kid's school the YMCA runs before and after school programs from 6:00 AM-6:00 PM. They never have to leave the school.

Well, that's good to know!
Still it's an added expense, and there more not be a day care (or a space available) for every parent than wants this service. A lot of day cares are running at capacity and are size limited by state regulation.

While the cost of child care in the US is indeed high, Finland provides extensive access to Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) with 28% of 0-2 year-olds in formal care, spending 1.3% of GDP in the process.

So if having easy and inexpensive access to child care drove STEM participation, you'd expect Finland and the other Nordics with subsidized child care to be on top. They are not.

Broad areas of the country have a shortage or even an absence of professional child care--in part because the industry is choked by regulation. Daycare centers that don't exist don't pick up kids at school.

In the instances I know about it has more to do with the desires of the mothers than any economic factors.

They simply prefer doing child care to working outside the home. You can hire a high quality nanny for about what an entry level teacher gets paid and all of these women could have gotten six figure jobs in addition to what their husbands made.

My wife who is partner in her engineering firm was 50/50 on quitting once she got pregnant. I am the one who talked her out of quitting based on economic arguments that we could outsource much of the stay at home parenting for much less than she was paid.

And if you don't want to go the full nanny route childcare can easily be afforded on the income of a STEM professional.

They simply prefer doing child care to working outside the home.

I don't believe that for an instant. Taking care of little kids is rough. You're getting woken up at night constantly, and then you have to deal with fussing and crying and temper tantrums during the day, and those kids pretty much can never leave your sight - you don't get to take a break do lie down and have a nap until all of them are napping as well. It's not fun. It's not something many people are going to want to do if they can afford to pay a professional and go to some fun job where you get to program computers and fuck around on the internet all day. It's more like ... I'm only doing this because it's too fucking hard to manage a job and this shit at the same time.

Taking care of little kids IS rough. It is also very rewarding when it is your children particularly for folks who have formed an incredible bond with the child by say carrying it inside them from 9 months and nursing it for months after.

A nanny can be had for $15-20/hr. So $40 grand on the top end. Starting salary for a civil engineer (undergrad) is $80k, someone 5 years in is probably making $90-100k. Sure that is not take home, but at least $60k probably is and some of the childcare cost is tax deductible. You can add in weekly house cleaning as well for 4-5k.

Almost any STEM professional could make out better economically by working in addition to their spouse. The reason they don't do so is that they would prefer to stay home than get the marginal bucks from working. If they viewed the work as better than childcare they would keep working even if it was break even.

Now that does not go for all women, my wife would go crazy staying at home. But a large number of women like being stay at home moms even if their families would have more disposable income if they worked.

I did (still do) nurse my two young kids. You can get that without quitting your job and staying home. The problem is that it's hard to make a full time job work, if both parents are working (my husband stays at home which is how it works for me) , for scheduling reasons, not money.

Also You have to factor in taxes and health insurance and 401(k) contributions into your calculations there. So she's probably not coming out as far ahead as you think. So there's a point where people feel like that extra $20K or whatever just isn't worth the scheduling hell of trying to juggle a full time job and two or more kids in daycare.

Well 401k contributions are not like taxes. They add to your net worth so they should be counted in the "coming out a head" bucket. Health care is hard to say. Stay at home parent still has to buy health insurance so that is not a marginal change due to working, my guess is a working person actually is cheaper than adding a non working spouse to the insurance of the working spouse.

But the point is not how much extra money the person makes. If staying at home was really so much worse than working they should be will to PAY to stay at home.

I will agree that for many women they look at it like hey I am only going to come out 15-20k ahead here even if I outsource most of the childcare. I value staying home more than I value that extra 15-20k.

But honestly the cost are also front loaded and the benefits back loaded. The cost go down steadily through time and the investment in career go up through time. I told my wife that even if we spent every penny of her after tax salary on nanny/housekeeping when she went back to work it would still be better for us in the long run, because once the kids went to school the cost would start coming down but here skill and salary would keep rising.

But many of her peers from graduate school and in our neighborhood looked at that same math and decided to exit the job market because they really preferred being a home maker.

Good point. I'm in STEM. I might not be in STEM if compensation weren't a consideration.

You might be right, but I wonder if that still holds.

My nephew - my sister's son - married a woman who, after the marriage, remained in school and earned a PhD in Neuroscience. He has followed her around to various career appointments, internships, residences, etc. up to and including her latest opportunity. He has a BA in something.

Maybe the culture is changing.

Yes, I think it is. And I think the market may be catching up. I.e. upthread mention of daycares that will pick up your kids from school.

I know 3 men who went down that road and 2 of them ended up divorced. In both cases it was the women who decided they wanted a divorce. Still that anecdotal evidence and I'd be interested in seeing what the statistics indicate.

How successful are marriages with a stay at home dad?

Just to be clear, I actually quite happily married. Being able to complain about your mate's quirks is part of the perks of being in a stable relationship. I actually find his insistence on being a handyman kind of charming.

That's great to hear. ;) Though, I didn't take your comment that way in any case.

I have seen statistics indicating approximately 80% of divorces are initiated by women. I don't know if those numbers are correct. Anecdotally, all the divorces I know of, except one, have been initiated by the women.

If true, I don't know what it means. Do women have higher expectations for marriage or for men? Are they more likely to be disappointed in their partner? Are they trading up? ???

Great post!
I want to relate what Alex has done to something in Adam Smith, the distinction between the amiable virtues and the respectable virtues (TMS 23.1; 306.2). Later in the work (151.32, 187, 209.13) we see some gendering, associating female with amiable and male with respectable. We also see Smith saying that wisdom and virtue call for both, by traversing the amiable side and respectable side of each loop of the upward winding spiral (152, 247.25; see also 153.37). But Smith never says clearly that either gender has, at it were, an absolute advantage. It could be just a matter of comparative advantages, exactly parallel to what Alex does here. All this, by the way, could be related to the idea that systematizing is more male, empathizing more female (Simon Baron-Cohen, The Essential Difference).

For those attacking Tabarrok, I suggest considering possible context.

He likely lives in a where he can get crucified for saying that there might be any intergroup variance (or even difference in intragroup variances) in any ability that might favor any subgroup of men or even that the two groups might have difference in distribution of interests.

This could be seen as sort of a soft hint to fellow members of the social justice cult that maybe... just maybe differences in career choices aren't 100% due to oppression.

I see it the same way as I see a preacher saying we should forgive the gays of their sins. It might sound horrible but it's leading their group in the right direction and the message is delivered in a way that is palatable to that group.

He has tenure. He's not going to get crucified unless someone gins up bogus sexual misconduct charges against him. It's GMU, not Oberlin.

LOL funniest reply in the whole thread!

Nah. He's sketching out a new and broad path for educators to continue trying to rightsize girls' representation in all the careers - now, the ones they chose because they were the *best* at it, and the ones they excelled at but magnanimously chose less often because their brothers needed to go to college too.

These people won't be satisfied until there's not a man left in the (indoor, air-conditioned) workplace.

I was out in fracking country, Permian basin, last week. If you mapped the genderless utopia, that'd be the terra incognita beyond it.

Chicks no like fracking.

Lower reading and comprehension skills might explain male anxiety about gender and that may in turn explain male over representation of forum opinions online. My theory is online posting is an anxiety relieving attempt to keep afloat what is perceived as a sinking boat.

What does it say about you when you are posting online about online posting being an anxiety relieving attempt to keep afloat what is perceived as a sinking boat.

It's all meaningless, because the context for these "experiments" is an educational system designed and run by women that favors female traits and punishes (non-soy-boy nerd) male traits. In order to be successful in the current system boys must be willing to sit still in a chair for hours at a time, give up their own intellectual interests in order to study what they are told to study when they are told to study it, resolve conflicts using methods preferred by women.

The current global educational model is designed to turn men into compliant, robot, worker-bees. The model is only a few hundred years old and has to overcome, via force, millions of years of evolution. Male humans did not evolve to become slaves. Natural selection does not favor compliant men.

I hope online education destroys the current model and it's silly credentialing and replaced it with a self-directed system that encourages real competence in what is really important.

The backlash against any such change will be furious - the vested interests have much to lose. Compulsory education provides very nice pensions for very little real work. Teaching prisoners pays well.

There will be blood.

Well, if you can convince women to switch from teaching into software development, perhaps men can launch a stealth takeover of the education system. Muahahahaah!

In a way, men are challenging the status quo - most of the big name online ed startups are founded by men. One exception, besides, was Coursera (also the largest by far). One of the founders and the ex-CEO, is a very interesting woman. She left the company to go back to academia - she's a third generation PhD. There might have been a mission conflict, since she often spoke of the creating an opportunity for the global poor that, unlike herself, don't otherwise have access to higher education. Alas, Coursera is ultimately a business, so their focus, after her departure, has shifted to making money. I suppose that is ok, capitalism has a way of weeding out low value providers of products. Our current educational model is a classic example of what happens when capitalism is removed from the game. Education has turned into a big pension system that also teaches a few things, and people (k-12) are required to consume this service under threat of legal action. K-12 education is compulsory in the USA. Then there is the death grip on credentialing owned by the college board. It's a racket. Never have so many paid so much for so little and yet acquiesce to the whole scam.

Men may change this, because it is largely men who are punished by this system. There are many male victims.

But the long march from chimpanzees required that we tame ourselves. Had to be a tough slog, probably harder for males, but it beats flinging literal feces at one another.

That may be true for physical violence, though crime statistics tell a different story.

There is a difference between a need for adventure, self-directed exploration, and action and a desire to assault someone. There isn't much opportunity for self-directed exploration and action in compulsory k-12 education or academia.

The bottom line, the system as it is setup today, favors girls and women, and men pay a high price to keep it going.

"If women are somewhat less interested in STEM fields than men..."

My sense is that this is not a minor difference. I've known some women in tech, and a sizable number bailed out after a few years. But even when they stayed and were competent and successful, the level of passion was distinctly lower. None of them had geeky tech-related hobbies outside of work, while virtually all of their male colleagues did. I know a couple where both husband and wife are software developers. But outside of her work, the wife appears no more technically adept than the average woman (she doesn't trouble-shoot the home WiFi or electronics or do anything with tools or auto or home repair. She certainly doesn't fly drones or mess around with drones or arduino boards). Another woman I know is a civil engineer who supervises large public works projects. But she shows no signs of technical interest or competence outside of the office (getting a non-STEM guy friend to come over to do things like put up shelves in her closet -- naturally, she doesn't own or know how to use a drill).

Who's likely to go farther and earn more? Who would you rather hire -- the candidate who does it because they love it or the one for whom it's just a job?

I'm not saying there's no difference, but in some cases the man is so intent on being the tool-using person in the household that the woman just tries to stay out of the way. I always would have that problem when building fires on camping trips. I've known how to get a fire going from tinder since I was 7, but for some reason, when on a group camping trip. It becomes this male point of pride to get the fire going. Generally this ends up involving using lighter fluid, which I consider cheating.
Similarly, I am completely capable of using a power drill and putting up shelves on my own. But if I did it, my husband would feel emasculated. So I am reduced to nagging him to put up the shelves. If I try to do it myself he'll start yelling and tell me to stop because he thinks I will screw it up. Home repair is his territory, also yard work, and taking out the garbage. Mostly I let him do it because it's good for his self esteem.

"Mostly I let him do it because it's good for his self esteem."

Ah, so thoughtful -- you get all the work done with no effort and also, in the bargain, get to feel like you've made a sacrifice and done him a favor. Is that what is meant by win-win ;)

Actually, lose-lose. He does not get the opportunity to realize that someone other than himself is capable of doing such work, and she perpetuates the idea that women are not as competent as men in banal household tasks.

Thus ensuring that the status quo continues, all because saving a man's self-esteem is more important than a woman's self-respect in a situation where both are equally competent.

Yeah, I was kidding about the win-win. But in terms of the status quo continuing, her account does remind me a bit of the way the 'little woman' was portrayed in old movies and TV shows. I remember seeing an Andy Griffith Show rerun as a kid where Aunt Bea had to go out of town for a few days. Andy and Opie did a great job of doing everything for themselves and keeping the house spotless. But then just before she came home, Andy realized that it was all wrong and they ran around messing the place up. And then she came home and gave them heck for being such slobby men! and happily bustled about cleaning up the mess and felt needed.

Along the same lines, if Hazel ever does put up shelves, maybe she should make sure they're crooked and not attached to any studs, so her 'Aunt Bea' can sigh about how hopeless women! are and feel needed. On the other hand, maybe she could do it some time when hubby's not around, be careful to do it well, and I really doubt he'd feel 'offended' or 'emasculated'. Much more likely would be him bragging about what his wife could do. But that would be work on her part (and could well lead to still more work).

Well he is a Stay at home dad, so he does have more free time than me too. Sometimes I do threaten to do work myself and then eventually I grab the cordless drill and start doing it which usually causes him to run up to me and try to wrestle the cordless drill out of my hands while insisting that he'll do it himself.

"he'll start yelling and tell me to stop because he thinks I will screw it up."

Undoubtedly this has nothing to do with your competence and everything to do with your husband's psychological issues

"I've known how to get a fire going from tinder since I was 7..."

Oh come on, there was no Wikipedia when you were 7!

"Well he is a Stay at home dad..."

Ah, OK -- that does change things. I work out of a home office myself, so I do have a lot more flexible time than my wife (and no commute), so that's part of the reason I do nearly all the projects. But the next time you pull out the cordless drill, he shouldn't grab it out of your hands, he should grab some popcorn. A woman using a cordless drill badly would be amusing while one using one expertly might even be, I dunno, kind of hot.

I once changed the spark plugs on my car in the parking lot of an AutoZone. So many guys hit on me.

Somebody did research recently showing that putting pictures of men near high-value items like a Rolls Royce enhanced their attractiveness ratings to women, but it didn't work with the sexes reversed. Men didn't rate women standing by a Rolls as any more attractive (which somebody explained by replacing 'high value' with 'high maintenance'). But what if the woman was changing the plugs on the Rolls?

BTW, I'm trying to imagine a scenario where A) my car ran well enough to drive to Autozone, but B) I decided to change the plugs right there in the parking lot instead of at home.

I couldn't really afford to buy a specialized socket wrench set just for changing sparkplugs, so I borrowed the one from Autozone. I think. They were kind enough to let me borrow the tool, but not to take it home.

Specialized socket wrench? It's just a regular socket wrench with a spark-plug sized socket (which usually come with a the set -- but cost a few bucks if not). And surely any modern woman would have many future uses for a good set of socket wrenches, no?

I wondered about that too, but my main experience is with motorcycles, and the necessary socket to replace spark plugs is normally part of the included tool kit (or used to be - god only knows what you get with a modern Harley these days - maybe I should ask the neighbors who never do any maintenance except polish the chrome on theirs).

It did not seem like a wise use of my meager grad student stipend to invest in a set of socket wrenches at that point in my life.

My Mom had a Caddy, long time ago, that the gas station needed to buy a special tool to change the back plugs. Some weird stuff out there.

How like a woman to nitpick, I know, but I always thought it was lame that the Scouts would teach the boys how to start a fire with flint or sticks and string, then the dads would use lighter fluid at the actual campouts. I discovered, however, that throwing the can of lighter fluid into the blazing fire was a fun Scout custom.

Don't get me wrong. I can appreciate a big explosion as well. But there's just no challenge in starting a fire that way.

'then the dads would use lighter fluid at the actual campouts'

To be honest, that basically never happened with the troop I was in (yes, I am an Eagle Scout). However, basically all of the men involved in the troop were military officers, so that might have skewed things a bit.

By the time I am speaking of - circa 2000 - their wives no longer cooked, and so, men loving to eat and all, the Scout dads excelled at it. The campout was, for the men, mostly about the food. They created pretty elaborate kitchen setups.

It was difficult to engage many boys in this aspect of things, try as they might. For the most part "boy-led" meals were pop tarts and summer sausage, or Kraft mac and cheese in the pot that they didn't notice was still soapy from last meal's dishes.

I've decided that pop tarts are a pretty good trail breakfast, though, actually better than granola bars.

What the hell happened to burying meat with some hot coals to bake it?

At my summer camp we used to do hamburgers by wrapping them in some tinfoil and baking them on the coals like that. You don't need any elaborate kitchen setup - just a roll of aluminum foil and a good bed of charcoal.

And this would have gotten you kicked out of the troop - 'I discovered, however, that throwing the can of lighter fluid into the blazing fire was a fun Scout custom.' But then, I was in the Scouts in the later 70s, and a number of those men had spent at least a couple of tours flying off of carriers in Southeast Asia. The idea of tossing a can of lighter fluid into a fire for fun just did not fit into their training.

It is actually quite dangerous to squirt lighter fluid directly onto a fire, so yeah.

It also doesn't really work that well and you end up wasting a lot of good lighter fluid that way. The correct thing to do is to have a lot of kindling of graded sizes and slowly add larger pieces of wood to the fire until your big logs get going. Adding lighter fluid will just cause your kindling to burn up faster without really getting your big logs lit.
And if you start it correctly you don't need any, just a paper towel and a lighter.

"Needing a little help" with #3 and #7 and #8 was perhaps more common. My school was de facto-segregated through testing so I never sat in a class with the larger set of kids who didn't even acknowledge homework.

At the senior awards ceremony, after various other undeserved things which I understood they had to annually give to somebody, and I felt no compunction about accepting - 12 years a slacker, but still, hadn't it been *especially* hard for me to endure it that long? Even after I had the bright idea of joining the golf team freshman year so I could leave after 5th period? - still I was disconcerted when they called my name for an award, with $$, from my city's Society of Women Engineers. This was bulls**t and I knew it. I even challenged the counselor about it afterward. There were two girls who were far better at math than I, and doubtless not a few better at science - one was actually heading to a School of Mines - but they weren't very verbal or as good at faking the humanities crap. I was the overall star of the SATs, which in the absence of much real achievement by any of us (my Texas school may indeed have been the inspiration for "Dazed and Confused") were an outsized indicator, and it was convenient for them for me to be the "best" at everything.

Those girls were robbed because their profile fit that of the very smart, STEM-oriented boys.

I am sure that has changed for the better, for those STEM-oriented girls, presumably in the 15 or twenty years between when you and I went to high school. Tabarrok's analysis seems not merely cloud-cuckoo-outlandish to me, but dated.

Sorry, reply meant for Hazel above. I've got no visuo-spatial ability! Or rather, relatively less. :-)

That's true. Girls get awards for being "well-rounded". Men aren't really expected to give satisfying answers to Miss America questions about world peace, or present well in the Star Search spokesmodel competition. They're free to show up in wrinkled clothes with their hair unkempt and people just assume that they spent the night wrestling with some theoretical physics equations.

You mean when they are competing for their Mr. America award?

If he were at Google he'd be fired.

Ricardo's comparative advantage is a term of art in international trade discussions. I fail to see how it applies to employment of women and men in STEM vs humanities.

The gist of this article is that, while women are absolutely superior in both STEM and humanities, men will be comparatively superior in STEM.
But an employer would prefer to hire only women for all his positions, both for software development, let's say, and for human relations, customer interfacing and technical documentation.

I'm a software developer of many years' experience in four countries who has only once worked beside or under a woman nearly as skillful. World travel and the language and cultural wisdom it brings are rarely enjoyed by women, whom we rear to be too fearful and too domesticated to stick out their thumbs on a foreign roadside or to endure the associated deprivations, especially alone and especially without a male companion. Women who do, like Amelia Earhart, Jane Goodall, Margaret Mead and Diane Fossey are well-hailed exceptions.

I hope to live to see that day when women are finally liberated from their over-protectionist upbringing and eager and free to fall in love with a stranger on a foreign hiking trail.

You might be trolling, but I couldn't help it... "too fearful to stick out their thumbs on a foreign roadside"? Women are at a physical disadvantage when it comes to dealing with malevolents, in several ways. Please read up on your Camille Paglia.

Regardless of their reasons for not sticking out their thumbs, they are rendering themselves losers in life experience by not doing so. I guess their foolish interest in risking all for little gain is generally satisfied by making babies.

"Even with a question mark my title, Do Boys Have a Comparative Advantage in Math and Science, is likely to appear sexist."

The completely equivalent question that is not likely to appear sexist is, "Do girls have a comparative advantage in [something other than math and science]?"

Given that comparative advantage is a *relative* rather than absolute concept, it was always going to be the case that, as societies became more gender-equal, one of two possibilities would happen:

(1) Men would come to dominate some professions, if not STEM than something else, and women would come to dominate others (such as pediatrics and OBGYNs, for example) []; or

(2) Ratios of men to women in all professions would be about the same, indicating that gains from gender diversity were minimal because women and men weren't actually that different from each other after all.

A.T., could you please tell us the gender distribution of Marginal Revolution readers? It would be a pity if this post is read by a large majority of men

Mathematics is not a natural human ability, it requires a touch of psychosis. No emotional responses allowed, painful to its practitioners. Men only do it for the money.

Eyeballing the chart, it would appear that men have an absolute, not just a comparative, advantage in math and science, especially if you eliminate the rather anomalous results from the Arab countries. It's true that the red bars are longer than the blue and green ones, but I would have to know a lot more about the scoring of the tests before I decided that it was appropriate to make cardinal, rather than merely ordinal, comparisons.

I think you are onto the correct interpretation of what is happening. This makes me think of trade and comparative advantage where importing what you are worst at and exporting what you are relatively better at, even if you aren't the best is the optimal strategy.

As a total social washout who played with fast cars (the 50's) and never read anything from the wrong side of the tracks (so to speak, it was a road), I could pass the entrance exam into engineering at UCLA while waiting for a friend who was taking the exam. Not having a relative in the high-end trade unions (pipefitters, boilermakers, etc.) like many of my friends (they were nepotistic, resulting in the appearance of discrimination against blacks, jews, etc.), the STEM option looked the best. Struggling in English and any subject requiring writing or where opinion by the teacher was relevant was very difficult, but conceptualizing the problem in mathematics and physical space was trivial. In these cases the opinions of the teacher were irrelevant.

The way STEM builds upon itself, you can't just reproduce what the professor said and automatically understand the subjects. You have to "see" in your mind how it all interrelates allowing you to take from one field and apply in another. Anyone trying to casually go into stem usually can't get very far and moves into managing people and other soft areas including all the so-called "social sciences" (other than economics) where they have N variable problems and pick out N-X variables and create a model (or just a mental model) and wonder why their research doesn't reproduce using two sigmas significant in an experiment with many possible models (this is why the Higgs Bozon was 5 sigmas for defining significance).

I believe that for 1. men to have a comparative advantage at STEM and 2. men to have an absolute disadvantage at STEM, and 3. there be no gender discrimination, then in equilibrium women would have higher earnings than men on average (controlling for work experience, etc). That is not true, so one of the assumptions of this model doesn't hold.

It's darkly funny how many commenters here seem to get incensed by the credible possibility that girls are generally better than boys at learning. I guess if your identity is heavily invested in the idea that relative male excellence is an inconvenient scientific truth suppressed by "political correctness," and that it is an act of bravery to shout it from the rooftops anyway, evidence to the contrary must be more than a little unsettling.

For my part, I find the idea that persistent male dominance in certain lines of work need not reflect overt sexism, but might instead reflects comparative male advantage amid general absolute disadvantage, a fascinating hypothesis well worth pursuing further. If the social return to STEM work is on average higher than primarily verbal work, and the return from STEM work would be higher if more women (who would on average be better at it than the men who are doing it) it may be the case that we're foregoing innovation by not inducing more women into STEM careers. This also suggests that "affirmative action" in this direction wouldn't mean, as people often assume, that standards go down. On the contrary, you'd expect them to go up.

Another implication is that men in STEM, in which workers tend to be in relatively short supply, are effectively subsidized by women electing to not exploit their absolute advantage over men in STEM. In this case, you'd expect male backlash in the profession to be driven by anti-competitive motives, and a desire to keep standards lower than they might be, for predictable distributional reasons.

Perhaps this helps explain some of the male disgruntlement over the Ricardian hypothesis. If true, it's a very inconvenient truth for men who want to protect themselves from able competition and higher expectations for performance.

It's darkly funny how many commenters here seem to get incensed by the credible possibility that girls are generally better than boys at learning. I guess if your identity is heavily invested in the idea that relative male excellence is an inconvenient scientific truth suppressed by "political correctness," and that it is an act of bravery to shout it from the rooftops anyway, evidence to the contrary must be more than a little unsettling.

I didn't see anyone 'incensed'. Rather amused and puzzled by the current social situation where suggesting that males might be naturally better at *anything* could be a career-ending firing offense (if you work at Google or are president of Harvard), while suggesting that females are naturally better at *everything* carries no reputational risks whatsoever. We are now in a curious situation where female underachievement in any domain is taken as a sign of sex discrimination while male underachievement is taken as a sign of inherent male inferiority (or, at the very least, the latter is a hypothesis that can be entertained in polite company without concern). This is truly an odd moment.

There is also the additional irony that the regressive left is stuffed so far up its own ass that any explanation will be insufficient.

The mere fact that you are wiling to draw attention to their hypocrisy makes you a sexist.

"Another implication is that men in STEM, in which workers tend to be in relatively short supply, are effectively subsidized by women electing to not exploit their absolute advantage over men in STEM."

LOL. Sounds like proof by contradiction to me.

"I find the idea that persistent male dominance in certain lines of work need not reflect overt sexism, but might instead reflects comparative male advantage amid general absolute disadvantage, a fascinating hypothesis well worth pursuing further."

In other words, the idea that women are genetically superior to men with higher IQs is "fascinating" and "well worth pursuing". I can't wait to see that mindset extended to other groups.

Will, isn't your second paragraph in contradiction with Ricardo's theorem, which says that everyone is better off if one specializes in what we have the greater comparative advantage? I mean, non STEM activities also have social value and your reasoning shows correctly (under Tabarrok's hypothesis) that if we push more women in STEM fields, more value in STEM fields will be created, but it doesn't show that more value in general will be created -- on the contrary.

+1 Wilkinson does not have much background in economics, as I understand.

First, the PISA scores aren't hard enough to really push the outer edges. In America, men outscore women on the verbal sections of both the GRE and the SAT. Women's advantage has always been in writing which, since the essay was eliminated, has hurt their overall competitiveness.

Second, it wouldn't surprise me too much if a good many of the countries where girls outscore boys are schools where girls aren't routinely encouraged to go to school.

Finally, grades are useless. Test scores--and test scores that accurately capture a significant range of ability--are all that matters. Girls and women get higher grades than boys and men, because they tend to care more about such things.

So I read Gregory Zuckerman's book "The Frackers", which I favorably reviewed on my blog. I wrote

"A third difference between the frackers and Silicon Valley is that no women are involved. Silicon Valley supposedly excludes women, but at least there they make up 10-15% of the leadership--most famously Sheryl Sandburg. But amongst the frackers there are zero women. The men are all highly driven, single-minded, workaholic, and extraordinarily intelligent. In many respects they are all very far out on the bell curve--not just in terms of intelligence. Few women are to be found amongst those very unusual people." (

So I think the premise that you can ignore the 'greater male variability' hypothesis is not valid.

"Two explanations for this apparent paradox have been offered. First, countries with greater gender equality tend to be richer and have larger welfare states than countries with less gender equality. As a result, less is riding on choice of career in the richer, gender-equal countries. Even if STEM fields pay more, we would expect small differences in personality that vary with gender would become more apparent as income increases. Paraphrasing John Adams, only in a rich country are people feel free to pursue their interests more than their needs. If women are somewhat less interested in STEM fields than men, then we would expect this difference to become more apparent as income increases."

This explanation seems pretty blatantly contradicted by the fact that some of the richest countries in the world with some of the most generous welfare states in the world, specifically small petrostates such as the United Arab Emirates and Brunei, also have high female enrollment rates in STEM.

Here's the 2017-2018 factbook for the Higher Colleges of Technology, one of the largest universities in the UAE. Enrollment statistics by gender and division are on page 17.

Here are higher education statistics for Brunei from 2016. Enrollment statistics by field and gender are on pages 38 and 39.

As for the comparative advantage theory, my main problem with this is that, all else being equal, shouldn't this result in a pay gap in favor of women, at least among recent college graduates, because with more options they would choose jobs that pay better? But isn't one of the main reasons why people talk about the STEM gender gap is that it's a major contributor to the gender pay gap? We can speculate about other possible reasons why women might choose jobs that pay less than STEM, but then we're right back where we started.

My personal theory is that this is at least in part because, in both poor countries and many petrostates, middle class professionals have an easier time outsourcing childcare duties and domestic chores, so work/life pressures aren't as strong for working women. In developed Western countries, only the rich can afford to regularly hire nannies, but in the UAE 96% of Emirati families employ domestic workers to help take care of their children ( and in Brunei a survey of 120 households found that families where the wife worked outside the home employed an average of 0.9 housemaids per household ( Since domestic workers in the UAE, Brunei, and similar small petrostates are mostly migrant workers from much poorer countries, it seems likely that third world domestic workers who don't emigrate do the same thing for economic elites in their home countries. This theory is highly speculative and for the most part untested, but it sounds more plausible on its face than any other proposed explanation that I've come across so far.

Well it's hard to imagine a more sexist and discriminatory culture than the Middle East, right? I don't know, maybe they're really sexist butt also say women are good at math for some reason?

It is possible that schools are designed to cater to feminine than masculine students, and that might have something to do with why girls do better than boys. Here's a theory of how it could've happened: a century ago, only the more intelligent section of the society went to school, and intelligent boys tend to be more disciplined and more feminine compared to the less intelligent ones.

Even today, the schooling system basically caters to such a profile, partly because of this "legacy factor" and partly because education is handled by elites, who are out-of-touch with how the education system appears from the end of the marsh-mallow-test-failing cognitive non-elite.

For instance, consider poetry - why is such a thing taught at all? One effect of teaching poetry may be making some section of the students, overwhelmingly male, hate the idea of going to school?

Countries where girls do well in STEM relative to boys tend to have lazy, not very bright boys, as shown by their lack of Nobel Prizes.

Meant to respond to you, but carelessly responded in a comment below: "Good point. When Indian sportswomen perform better than Indian sportsmen in international competitive events, there are comments made about Indian women being better than Indian men relatively to their same-sex counterparts elsewhere, which is actually consistent with your comment."

Good point. When Indian sportswomen perform better than Indian sportsmen in international competitive events, there are comments made about Indian women being better than Indian men relatively to their same-sex counterparts elsewhere, which is actually consistent with your comment.

You mean Indian sportswomen get more medals than Indian sportsmen, right? Not that women beat the mean at the same (unisex) sport?

If it's the former, I don't see what exactly that proves. Doesn't really support Sailer's comment (which is basically another one of his stock hammer-meet-nail comments) either.

In such a long and thorough post you'd think IQ would have been mentioned, as well as IQ subtests. And note that average people who are better that other average people at math don't get STEM jobs. Researchers should only be comparing those who are 1 or more standard deviations over the mean🐁

Yeah, yeah. Nice regression lines you got there, would be a shame if someone were to remove a bunch of ME countries that score poorly on GGGI and for some reason manage to educate women in technology nevertheless. All aside from GGGI being a measure of female disadvantages, and not equality.

But explain me this: On GitHub, three percent of contributors identify as women. They are almost outnumbered by people identifying as neither or both, and vastly outnumbered by ethnic minorities and sexual minorites - in fact the latter group is represented at about double the population average.

In industry, something like 22% of the programmers are female. But when it comes to contributing or starting or participating in projects on the internet, the fraction is reduced to almost nothing, an amount well below the lizardman constant. I'm not aware of any other statistic (outside reproduction) where the gender differences are of this magnitude.

And GitHub is an open service, which last time I looked doesn't check your genitals before entry. It is really, really hard to see any reason for women not participating in software development - except if it is because they really, really just don't want to.

This doesn't prove or disprove anything you said, but when people have day jobs, they don't necessarily have the time to around starting or contributing to open source projects on github. They (of any gender) are very likely to be contributing to projects in their companies' private github instances. Most companies have policies governing employees' contributions to open-source. People basically sign away all their IP to the company in their employment contracts; this is pretty standard.

I don't see how this is anything but a redescription of the claim that boys are naturally predisposed to STEM fields. It makes it sound more politically correct but no one in any part of the debate has doubted that (at least up through early college) that women have a strong overall advantage in academic performance.

So when someone says boys have some kind of larger innate inclination or ability at STEM they can't be alleging that, all things considered, boys are inclined to do better in STEM since they acknowledge that women still, on average, outperform boys in those fields.

They are just naming the components a bit differently and viewing performance in a subject as some kind of sum of general inclination to succeed in academics and a subject specific factor. That's saying exactly the same thing you did but with different names for the components.

The performance differences between males and females in reading is evidence of a 'gender gap' an important question must be asked: What is the cause of this gap?
Are males cognitively inferior to females?
Are males discriminated against?
Does a school system overpopulated by female reading teachers affect male achievement in reading?
Are the methods and materials used in the teaching of reading inappropriate?
Are there civil rights violations of young men regarding the teaching of reading?
Is the general inferiority of reading skills responsible for the relative unpreparedness of males for college?

A curriculum featuring such time-tested works as "The Secret Life of Bees" probably doesn't help. Teenage boys may be a bit thick, but I think some of them sense that an insta-canon of the sort of books their moms read in book club, at best is an indicator of the intellectual limitations of their teachers, which it's better they don't ponder, as it contributes to disrespectfulness (I saw this tendency firsthand). At worst, it's an institutionalized hint that the changes they undergo in adolescence, which for girls are purely celebrated, augur the danger that they will become "abusers." That's a lesson that, if worth solidly imparting, it should be obvious is also worth not overdoing. And of course, it crowds out other lessons you might want boys - and even girls! - to learn.

To be fair, after some years of this - requiring all incoming freshmen at the neighborhood high school to read, for reasons baffling to all, the aforementioned "Secret Life" before darkening the doors in fall - parents must have complained that it seemed a little on the nose. The result: a 2nd choice was offered, a memoir of a runner from Africa, a refugee who had settled in our city.

Not being a teacher, I don't know what the thinking was behind the summer reading assignment, or if it's now fallen out of fashion, but give them something to read that they don't already have "figured out," would have been my advice. Or provide a long list and make it confusingly optional. That way, choosing the book would dovetail with teens' favorite pastime, self-definition. It might prompt them to spend some time with several books before settling on a nice 100-pager.

Your post is very nice by Do Boys Have a Comparative Advantage in Math and Science?

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