Exposure to High-Achieving Male Peers May Lower Girls’ Chance of Earning a Bachelor’s Degree

According to a new report from the National Bureau of Economic Research, high school girls who have a greater exposure to high-achieving male peers are less likely to complete a bachelor’s degree. The research also found that by ages 26 to 32, these girls have lower labor-force participation rates and more children.

For their study, the research team examined data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health. The sample contained information on a sample of U.S. students in grades in seven through 12 starting with the 1994-1995 academic year.

After observing the data, the researchers found a correlation between girls’ exposure to high-achieving boys and low degree completion. Those girls who had the most exposure to high-achieving boys had an increased risk of having a child before the age of 18. Additionally, the research found that boys were not affected by the presence of high-achieving peers of either gender.

“Faced with a greater proportion of ‘high-performing’ boys, girls may become less self-confident about their own ability in traditionally male-dominated fields such as math and science,” the authors wrote. “More generally, these high-school girls may become more discouraged or think themselves less competent which could then affect their actual performance.”

On the positive side, girls who had lower ability, who did not have a college-educated parent, and who went to a school in the upper half of the socioeconomic spread, were more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree if they had a greater exposure to high-achieving girl peers.

The researchers believe their results can help educators establish policies aimed at building confidence among lower ability girls. Additionally, they suggest that administrators and educators need to be more aware of how classrooms are split up and of the potential positive outcomes of reducing exposure to high-achieving boys.

The full paper, “Girls, Boys, and High Achievers” was authored by scholars from Cornell University and New York University. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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