Washington DC: A new study has found that the girls from progressive societies do better at mathematics. Research co-authored by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) showed that the “math gender gap” is much wider in societies with poor rates of gender equality and is far less pronounced in societies that hold progressive and egalitarian views about the role of women.
The researchers analysed the relationship between math scores of 11,527 15-year-olds living in nine different countries and the Gender Gap Index (GGI) in their country of ancestry. The GGI measures economic and political opportunities, education, and well-being for women.
Co-author Almudena Sevilla explained, “These boys and girls grew up and live in the same country, but their parents came from elsewhere. So, differences in how well girls perform compared to boys, given that they are in the same environment and exposed to the same institutions, is likely to be the result of parents (or their social network) transmitting values about gender equality to their kids.”
The researchers found that the more gender equality in the country of ancestry, the higher the math scores of girls relative to boys living in the same country. The findings were significant and robust even when the researchers controlled for other individual factors that may affect youths’ math performance.
In particular, the results show that an increase of 0.05 points (or one standard deviation) in the GGI is associated with an increase in the performance of girls in maths, relative to boys, of 7.47 points – equivalent to about one and a half months of schooling.
The researchers described the results as a contribution to a policy problem of “first order importance” as it highlights the relevance of gender social norms on girls’ educational outcomes. They argue that policies which attempt to change cultural values about women’s role in society “may prove decisive in reducing the maths gender gap,” which is accepted as a contributing factor in the gender pay gap.