Dynamics of the Gender Gap in High Math Achievement
50 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2018 Last revised: 20 Apr 2019
Date Written: April 9, 2019
This paper examines the dynamics of the gender gap over the high school years among high scorers on the American Mathematics Competitions. A clear gender gap is already present by 9th grade and the gender gap widens over the high school years. High-achieving students must substantially improve their performance from year to year to maintain their within-cohort rank, but there is nonetheless a great deal of persistence in the rankings. Several gender-related differences in the dynamics contribute to the widening of the gender gap, including differences in the rates with which male and female students stop participating in the contests, and in the mean and variance of year-to-year improvements among those who continue. A decomposition indicates that the most important difference is that fewer girls make large enough gains to move up substantially in the rankings. An analysis of students on the margin of qualifying for a prestigious second stage exam provides evidence of a discouragement effect: some react to falling just short by dropping out of participating in future years, and this reaction may be more common among girls.
JEL Classification: I20, J16
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation