School Context and the Gender Gap in Educational Achievement

American Sociological Review 77 (3)

Posted: 22 May 2010 Last revised: 4 Nov 2013

See all articles by Joscha Legewie

Joscha Legewie

Harvard University - Department of Sociology

Thomas A. DiPrete

Columbia University - Department of Sociology

Date Written: June 1, 2012


Today, boys generally under-perform relative to girls in schools throughout the industrialized world. Building on theories about gender identity and reports from prior ethnographic classroom observations, we argue that the school environment channels the conception of masculinity in the peer culture, and thereby either fosters or inhibits the development of anti-school attitudes and behavior among boys. Girls' peer groups, in contrast, do not vary as strongly with the social environment in the extent to which school engagement is stigmatized as “un-feminine.” As a consequence, boys are more sensitive to school resources that create a learning oriented environment than are girls. Our analyses use a quasi-experimental research design to estimate the gender difference in the causal effect on test scores, and focus on peer SES as an important school resource. We argue that assignment to 5th grade classrooms within Berlin schools is practically random, and we evaluate this selection process by an examination of Berlin's school regulations, by simulation analysis, and by qualitative interviews with school principles. Estimates of the effect of SES composition on male and female performance strongly support our central hypothesis, and other analyses support our proposed mechanism as the likely explanation of the gender differences in the causal effect.

Download The paper is available on the SAGE - American Sociological Review website. For some reason, SSRN keeps removing my links to this page...

Keywords: causal inference, education, gender, gender gap, peer effects

JEL Classification: I20, J16

Suggested Citation

Legewie, Joscha and DiPrete, Thomas A., School Context and the Gender Gap in Educational Achievement (June 1, 2012). American Sociological Review 77 (3), Available at SSRN:

Joscha Legewie (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Department of Sociology ( email )

33 Kirkland Street
William James Hall, Sixth Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Thomas A. DiPrete

Columbia University - Department of Sociology ( email )

New York, NY 10027
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics