2011 SAT Test: Gender Disparity in Math Persists
1. Following an uninterrupted trend that dates back to at least 1972, high school boys scored higher on average than girls on both the 2011 SAT reading test (500 average for males vs. 495 for females) and the SAT math test (531 for males vs. 500 for females, see chart above). The five-point male advantage on the 2011 SAT reading test was slightly greater than last year’s 4-point difference; the 31-point male advantage for the math SAT was the lowest gender gap since 1972 (earliest year reported by the College Board). Both differences in average test scores by gender are statistically significant at the 1% level.
2. High school girls outperformed boys on the 2011 SAT writing test by 14 points (496 average for females vs. 482 for males), and that gender gap in favor of females is the widest since the College Board introduced the reading test in 2006.
4. There were large test score gaps among ethnic groups on the 2011 SAT test. For example, on the 2011 math SAT there was a 60-point gap in favor of Asian students compared to whites (595 average for Asians vs. 535 for whites), a 108-point gap in favor of white students compared to blacks (535 average for whites vs. 427 points for blacks), and a 168-point gap in favor of Asians compared to black students (595 vs. 427).
5. For average scores on the math SAT by gender and ethnic group, there was a significant, but varying gender gap in favor of males for Asians (+25 points), whites (+32 points) and blacks (+13 points).
6. For 2011 SAT test-takers, girls had superior academic high school records on average compared to boys: for students ranking in the top 10% of their high school classes, there were 127 girls (56% of the total) for every 100 boys (44% of the total), and for students with GPAs of A+, girls outnumbered boys by a ratio of 144 females per 100 males (59% to 41%). High school girls had a higher overall average GPA of 3.40 compared to 3.27 for boys.
7. More high school girls than boys took advanced AP/honors math classes in high school (117 females per 100 males) and science classes (122 females per 100 males).
8. More high school girls (54%) than boys (46%) studied mathematics for four years in high school, and those percentages were the same for students studying four years of high school science.
Bottom Line: The fact that women hold a “disproportionately low share of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) undergraduate degrees and fewer than 25 percent of STEM jobs” according to the Census Bureau certainly isn’t because female students are being discouraged from studying math and science in high school. In fact, the evidence shows that females are excelling in math and science in high school and are overrepresented in AP/Honors math and science courses, and are more likely than their male counterparts to take four years of math and science.
Further, compared to boys, high school girls get better grades on average, and are far more likely to graduate in the top 10% or 20% of their high school classes. By most objective measures, girls have all of the necessary ingredients for success in STEM fields like engineering except perhaps for one: that huge 31-point gender gap on the SAT math test in favor of boys that persists over time and across all ethnic groups.