Girls in Families Whose Parents Favor Boys Have Lower Test Scores in STEM Fields

According to a new study from scholars at the University of California, Los Angeles, Northwestern University, and the London School of Economics, parents who have a preference for boys may, subsequently, have a negative impact on their daughters’ test scores in math and science.

For their study, the research team examined a sample of records of birth certificates in Florida from 2002 to 2011. Through analyzing these birth certificates, they were ultimately able to reconstruct family trees, which revealed a mostly boy-biased family structure where the last-born child was more likely to be a boy, preceded by more than one girl. In other words, families were more likely to keep having children until they had a son, revealing their preference for sons over daughters.

Girls who were born into families that followed this boy-biased structure scored an average of three percentage points lower on math and science standardized tests than girls from non-biased households. The authors believe that this issue is a societal problem, not a biological one.

“People have been doing tests on IQ to see if there are predispositions, but it seems that we are all equal,” said Paolo Giuliano, an economics professor at UCLA and a co-author of the paper. “This is definitely not something genetic or biological.”

The full study, “Born in the Family: Preferences for Boys and the Gender Gap in Math,” was published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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