OF AMERICAN BOYHOOD
CITATION: Judith Kleinfeld.
2009. The State of American Boyhood. Gender Issues.26,
existence of a "boy crisis" in the United States is a topic of educational
policy debate. While the problems of girls in schools have been addressed
for many years, should boys now become the forcus of educational reform?
To clarify this issue, this study reviews national statistics on the
well-being of American boys and young men, examining not only the usual
school indicators but also such issues as mental health, premature deaths,
juvenile delinquency and arrest rates. Boys are in trouble in
many areas: low rates of literacy, low grades and engagement in school,
high dropout rates, placement in special education, especially in the
more subjective areas of emotional disturbance and learning disabilities,
more suspension and expulsions form school, and lower rates of postsecondary
entrance and completion. Boys also suffer from dramatically higher
suicide rates, conduct disorders, premature death, and rates of arrest
and juvenile delinquency. Girls, however, are far more apt to
suffer from depression and eating disorders., lower scores on mathematics
and science tests, and are less likely to achieve at the very highest
levels. This study argues that both boys and girls suffer from characteristic
problems, but the issues affecting boys are serious and neglected.
OF AMERICAN BOYHOOD
Whether or not a "boy crisis"
actually exists or whether this "crisis" amounts to little more
but overblown rhetoric, fueled by an anti-feminist agenda, is at the
center of a new educational policy debate. On one side of this
controversy are those who argue that the nation is facing a "new gender
gap" with many boys falling dangerously behind in academic achievement
and college graduation, and entering a new knowledge economy for which
they are woefully underprepared. On the other side of the debate
are policy analysts who argue that the widely-publicized "boy crisis"
is non-existent, overblown, or, at most, limited to minority boys.
At stake are limited attention, time, and resources. Should boys
now become the focus of educational reform? Should teachers and schools
make the needs of boys a priority? Should government agencies
and foundations direct funds to programs that enhance the achievement
and college attendance of boys?
paper briefly reviews the policy debate, dividing it into three stages:
1. The schools are shortchanging girls 2. The schools are shortchanging
boys 3. Debunking the idea of a "boy crisis." Each stage
is described through the major publications that crystallize each position
in different time periods of this debate. This paper then reviews
the evidence for a "boy crisis," relying on the most recent statistical
data, such as the National Assessment for Educational Progress and the
Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System from the National Center for
Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
argument of this paper is that neither girls nor boys are "in crisis"
with the exception of Black young men. Rather boys and girls suffer
from different types of characteristic problems. The problems of boys
are centered in literacy, school engagement, placement in special education,
high school dropout rates, enrollment and graduation in postsecondary
programs, mental health problems such as suicide and conduct disorders,
and criminal activities. Despite a few studies to the contrary,
the achievement gap in the natural sciences and mathematics for girls
has not closed at the highest levels of achievement. While girls have
far lower rates of suicide than boys, they suffer from more mental health
problems such as depression, eating disorders, and suicidal ideation,
gestures, and attempts. Schools need to pay attention to the difficulties
of both girls and boys and bring these problems to the attention of
families, teachers, and mental health professionals.
The Policy Controversy
Stage I: The Schools Are
the early 1990s, a plethora of popular books argued that girls were
suffering psychological damage as a result of tte cultural construction
of the female gender role and educational neglect. Typical books,
such as Carol Gilligan's In a Different Voice (1993), Mary
Pipher's Reviving Ophelia (1994), and Peggy Orenstein's
School Girls (1994) asserted that girls, especially at adolescence,
suffered from loss of voice, lower self-esteem, and pressures to conform
to female cultural expectations of attractiveness, compliance, and passivity.
Sadker and Sadker's Failing and Fairness (1994), as well as
an earlier literature review (Sadker, Sadker, and Klein 1991) focused
on gender inequities in the schools, emphasizing that the content of
the curriculum and the practices of teachers advantaged boys.
Teachers, for example, gave boys more attention than girls, chastized
girls who didn't raise their hands while accepting the call-outs of
boys, and were more apt to engage in sustained intellectual dialogue
with boys, which promoted their cognitive development.
issue of gender inequity in the schools burst into the consciousness
of educators, parents and the public through a highly publicized report
and media campaign by the American Association of Women (AAUW), How
Schools Shortchange Girls (1992). This report crystallized
the issue: Girls are at risk. Girls have lower test scores in
mathematics and science, lower scores on high-stakes college entrance
tests and lower self-esteem. Teachers tailor classroom
activities to boys' interests and do not prevent boys, for example,
from doiminating science experiments while girls observe from the side.
Schools Shortchange Girls, together with other publications of the
period, drew attention to the educational and psychological problems
of American girls and exerted substantial influence on national policy.
The 1994 Gender Equity in Education Act identified girls as an underserved
population and directed funding toward girls' needs. Federal agencies
and foundations made girls' issues a priority. The result was
numerous programs devoted to increase the sef-confidence of girls, the
achievement of girls in mathematics and science and increasing their
interest in pursuing mathematics, science, and engineering careers.
Typical examples were science camps for girls and teacher training programs
in classroom equity in Schools of Education and teacher in-service programs.
A spate of publications from such organizations as the Women's Educational
Equity Act Publishing Center, funded by the Department of Education,
promoted the development of "gender-fair" instructional materials.
Textbook publishers emphasized women's lives and contributions to
socety as a means of boosting girls-self esteem. Textbook adoption committees
in school districts considered such coverage crucial to textbook selection,
a powerful pressure on publishers. A writing section was added to the
SAT, a domain where girls excelled, in part to increase scores on this
sum, the idea that girls were at risk, that schools were a central source
of their problems, and that schools were a pivotal institution through
which gender inequities could be addressed led to numerous federal,
state, school district, and foundation programs. These efforts
to promote girls' interests succeeded in creating a new public policy
problem and in changing educational practice.
Stage II: The schools are
contrary position, that girls are the sex at risk and that schools actually
favor girls, developed in the late 1990s. Tom Mortenson, an educational
analyst who publishes highly respected analyses of higher education
issues in Postsecondary Education Opportunity was the first to
draw attention to the gender gap in college attendance and graduation.
In such reports as The State of American Manhood (2006), Mortenson
argued that the problems of boys and young men were rooted in changing
employment patterns. Occupational demand in areas of traditionally male
high-paying employment, such as manufacturing, have greatly declined
reducing opportunities for men with low levels of education. Men with
a high school education or less were more likely to be unemployed in
times of economic decline and were experiencing substantial declines
in real income--- –a drop in median annual income by 38 percent
from 1973 to 2004 among men who lacked a high school diploma and by
26 percent for men with only a high school education. Women, on the
other hand, were increasing their participation in higher education
and able to attain more stable, high-paying positions in the knowledge
economy. Sum, Fogg, and Harrington (2003) also drew attention to the
lower participation and attainment of men in higher education and argued
that the weaker educational attainment of men decreased labor productivity
and economic growth.
books again brought the issue of boys' problems to the attention of
parents and educators. Michael Gurian's books Boys and Girls Learn
Differently! (2002) and The Minds of Boys (Gurian and Stevens
2005) argued that these problems were rooted in the schools' lack
of responsiveness to patterns of male development, for example, the
later maturation of boys which put them at a disadvantage. William Pollack's
Real Boys (1998) argued that the gender construction of masculinity
that encouraged boys to hide their emotions and present to the world
a stereotyped image of masculinity which idealized toughness, which
he called the "Boy Code." In Raising Cain: Protecting the
Emotional Life of Boys, Kindlon and Thompson (2000) also urged greater
attention to boys' developmental and emotional problems and suggested
ways in which counselors, teachers, and families could deal with boys'
issues in gender-appropriate ways. Sax (2005, 2007) argued that the
central problem was boys' lack of motivation and "failure to launch."
Many young men were living at home with their parents through their
twenties and not assuming independent adult roles.
publication which crystallized the view that boys, not girls, are the
victims of discrimination in the schools was Christinal Hoff Sommer's
book, The War Against Boys (2000). The AAUW report,
How Schools Shortchange Girls, Sommers charged, was riddled
with errors, crucial research on which its arguments were based had
oddly disappeared, and boys were, in fact, behind girls on most measures
of school success. The subtitle of The War Against Boys--- How
Misguided Feminist is Harming Our Young Men--- laid responsibilitity
for the neglect of boys on feminists and unfortunately laid the groundwork
for the political charge that concern for boys lay in an anti-feminist
idea that boys are in trouble resonated with parents, especially middle
class parents. Many were worried that so many of their sons had been
diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and prescribed
drugs such as Ritalin which might damage their developing brains.
They suspected that teachers' intolerance for active, boisterous boys,
not their sons' presumed deficits, was responsible. Parents were concerned
that many of their sons were not working as hard in school as their
daughters and were absorbed in videogames. They were concerned that
admissions officials would pass over their capable, high-achieving daughters
in order to achieve gender balance in college enrollments at prestigious
schools. And they worried about the marriage possibilities of their
well-educated daughters, their difficulties in finding mates who could
match their achievements and education.
second stage in this debate, the emphasis on the problems of boys rather
than girls, led to minimal changes in federal policy and school programs.
No federal legislation comparable to the 1994 Gender Equity in Education
Act was established. Laura Bush in her "Helping America's Youth"
initiative did include boys' problems in school among youth needs,
but this federal effort faded with no federal task force charged with
examining the problems of boys and no changes in agency mandates or
funding. Foundations have been reluctant to support the issue,
except for programs targeting the long-established problems of African-American
Britain and Australia, on the other hand, have succeeded in launching
national initiatives to raise the achievement of boys (Boys Education
Lighthouse Schools, 2003; Weaver-Hightower, 2003; Sommers, 2000). No
national organizations in the United States or politically powerful
advocacy groups have addressed boys' problems. The exception is the
National Association for Single Sex Public Schooling, organized by Leonard
Sax, which advocates single-sex schools and classrooms for boys as well
as girls. The Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Education
did issue in 2008 modified regulations allowing single sex classrooms
so long as equivalent instruction was provided in co-educational classrooms,
and these changes in regulations also allowed for single sex schools.
But this minor change in regulations has been virtually the only American
policy effort to address the problems of boys. While a few educational
consultants have worked with teachers to increase their awareness of
boys' educational needs and to develop sex-appropriate strategies
and a handful of single-sex schools and classrooms have been established,
these efforts have reached few boys.
Debunking the Idea of a
widely publicized reports have challenged the idea that boys are in
crisis, with the exception of minority boys. Sara Mead (2008)
in The Truth About Boys and Girls published by the think
tank, the Education Sector, argued that the boys' crisis is non-existent,
the gains of girls have not come at the expense of boys, and that any
boy crisis is limited to Black and Hispanic boys. The AAUW issued
another rebuttal, Where the Girls Are: The Facts About Gender
Equity in Education (Corbett, Hill and St. Rose, 2008), made a similar
argument. Educational achievement is not a zero-sum game--- –the
numbers of boys, as well as girls, who enter and graduate from college
have increased, and, for younger boys, achievement on the National Assessment
of Educational Progress (NAEP) has improved, with boys matching girls
in literacy and other domains. A report rebutting these arguments,
Taking the Boys Crisis in Education Seriously (Kafer, 2007) was
poorly publicized and ignored. Published by the Independent Women's
Forum, the report argued again that boys, not girls, are in trouble
in schools, that many boys did not develop the literacy crucial to success
in the knowledge economy, and that federal programs have appropriated
large sums of money to increase the achievement of girls, while the
problems of boys are ignored.
arguing that the educational problems of girls and women still merit
serious policy attention acknowledge that the gender gap in mathematics
has closed (Hyde et al., 2008). The low number of women who become mathematicians,
engineers, physicists, and scientists has now become the focus of their
policy efforts (Committee on Maximizing the Potential of Women in Academic
Science and Engineering, 2006).
Purpose of this Study and
report examines the state of American boyhood first in the schools and
then in other less publicized domains, such as mental health, suicide,
premature death, injury, delinquency and arrest rates. This study also
examines less-known sex differences, such as gender differences in the
success of top achievers, the winners of the Intel Science Talent Search,
the Siemens Competition in Math, Science, and Technology, and Rhodes
evaluating sex differences in these domains, I have used the most recent,
nationally representative information available. A major problem is
the lack of data analyzed not only by sex but also by race and socioeconomic
status. To deal with these problems, I have examined sex differences
in the reports of school districts on gender issues, but the particular
demographics of these districts limit the generalizability of the findings.
problem is the way the statistics are analyzed and presented. An analysis
comparing the proportions of boys and girls who are suspended or placed
in special education, for example, is sometimes done using the proportion
of girls versus boys in these categories and sometimes the proportion
of girls and boys in these categories in the school population. An analysis
comparing the proportion of girls and boys in a particular category
often suggests a serious policy problem while the proportion in the
school population suggests a far less serious problem.
Gender Gaps in Achievement
at the 12th grade: Achievement gaps at
the senior year of high school are the most crucial, since this grade
marks the end of formal schooling for many students. Since differences
in average scores on these tests are difficult to interpret, I analyze
gender gaps among students who fall "Below basic," since these students
are unprepared for most occupations, and among students who achieve
at the "proficient and advanced levels," who are prepared for postsecondary
education and for participation in a democratic society.
the 12th grade level, boys fall far behind girls in the foundational
skills of reading and writing. At the end of high school, more
than a quarter of young men (26%) fall below basic in writing and just
16% achieve at the proficient or advanced levels. In contrast,
just 11% of young women fall below basic in writing and 31% achieve
at the proficient or advanced levels. The gender gap in writing
is staggering among Black and Hispanic students. At the end of high
school, almost half (42%) of Black young men fall below basic compared
to less than a quarter (22%) of Black young women. Similarly,
36% of Hispanic young men score below basic compared to 21% of Black
differences in writing achievement occur when socioeconomic status (measured
by the highest level of education achieved by one parent) is taken into
account. For example, among Black male 12th graders with
at least one parent who is a college graduate, an astonishing 37% still
fall below basic in contrast to just 17% of Black females. A gender
gap of similar proportions also occurs among Hispanic students of similar
gender gaps in the foundational skill of reading are also an important
policy concern. A third of male students at the 12th grade
level fall below basic compared to 22% of female students. Less than
a third of male students (29%) are reading at the proficient or advanced
levels compared to 41% of female students. Over half of Black males
(53%) are reading below basic compared to 40% of Black females. A gender
gap of similar magnitude occurs among Hispanic students.
mathematics and science, gender gaps have almost disappeared. In mathematics,
38% of males are achieving below basic compared to 40% of females. In
science, 44% of males and 48% of females are achieving below basic.
Small gender gaps in favor of males occur at the proficient and advanced
levels. In mathematics, an astonishing 70% of both Black males and females
are achieving below basic and miniscule numbers (about 5%) are achieving
at the proficient or advanced levels. Veryr small gender gaps in favor
of males are similarly occurring for Hispanic students
science again, small gender gaps occur in favor of males at the below
basic level (males, 44%; females, 48%) and at the proficient and advanced
levels (males, 22%; females, 16%) Black and Hispanic males are
achieving abysmal scores in science (Black males, 79% below basic; Black
females, 82% below basic), but the gender gap is too small to warrant
policy attention specifically to females.
the 12th grade level, the NAEP tests a variety of other subjects:
economics, civics, geography, and U.S. history. Gender gaps are small,
favoring females in civics, and favoring males in economics, geography,
and U.S. history. Small gender gaps but favoring females in both civics
and geography and males in economics and U.S. history occur for Black
Differences at the 8th and 4th
grade levels: To avoid repetitious detail, I will discuss only sex
differences at earlier levels which depart from the pattern at the 12th
the 8th grade, in writing, substantial gender gaps occur
but of a smaller magnitude. Writing achievement, shows a policy significant
gender gap similar to the 12th grade level; the gender gap
in reading achievement is even wider at the 8th grade level;
the gender gap in mathematics is trivial; and the gender gap in
science is the same as at the 12th grade level; and the gender
gap in other tested subjects (civics, geography, economics, U.S. history)
are the same with the exception of females also having a slight advantage
in civics, rather than males).
the 4th grade, the gender gap favors females in reading,
but at this lower grade level, the gender gap is small (6% of males
below basic as opposed to 11% of at the 12th grade). In writing,
the 4th grade gender gap is small (10% of males below basic
as opposed to 15% below basic at the 12th grade). No
gender gap in mathematics occurs at the 4th grade level.
A small gender gap similar in size to at the 12th grade level
occurs in science. No gender gap appears in U.S. history; males achieve
slightly better in civics (a reversal of the 12th grade gender
gap); and males also achieve slightly better in geography.
short, the policy-relevant problem is the serious gender gap in the
basic skills of reading and writing, which appears at all grade levels,
with the worst gender gaps occurring at the 12th grades.
In mathematics, science, and other subjects, gender gaps are small or
trivial but favor males. In terms of policy discussion and educational
investments, the nation is addressing gender differences which barely
exist but ignoring gender gaps which are substantial. Policy attention
has focused on the supposed underachievement of females in mathematics
and science but these gender gaps are trivial. In contrast, substantial
gender gaps are occurring in reading and writing. The gender gap in
literacy has not become a policy issue, but basic literacy where males
are at a serious disadvantage is where the problem is found.
Scores on the Scholastic
Achievement Test and American College Test
policy discussions of the gender gap in school achievement, gender differences
on the high stakes Scholastic Achievement Test (SAT) and American College
Test (ACT) are often used to rebut the position that a boy crisis exists.
The problem with gender comparisons on these college entry tests, however,
is that more women go to college and take these tests so women are more
apt to be drawn from lower levels of the talent pool. In 2007,
for example, more high school senior women (54%) took the SAT (College
the 2007 SAT (College Board, 2007), females scored higher in writing
(females, 500; male, 489) while males scored considerably higher in
mathematics (females, 502; males, 533). Further, when SAT scores are
analyzed by achievement band, far more males scored at the very top
and far more males scored at the bottom. At the very highest range of
the SAT composite scores on reading and mathematics (1600 to 1530),
males are substantially ahead (male, 61%; females, 40%). Even when the
writing test is included, an area of pronounced female advantage, sex
differences in favor of males at the very highest range (2400 to 2330)
remain large (males, 55%; females, 45%). The proportion of females
in the lowest range of the SAT (600 to 1520) is 55%.
the ACT in 2007, (ACT High School Profile, 2007), however, despite the
larger number of college-bound females who take the test (females, 55%;
males, 45%), male and female composite scores are just about equal (males,
21.2; females 21.0). The far greater gender gaps on the SAT very likely
occur because the ACT is more closely linked to the high school curriculum,
where girls outpace boys in school grades, while the SAT measures more
general intellectual skills, dependent on experiences outside of school.
helpful correction to the problems of larger numbers of female test-takers
is to examine sex differences on ACT scores in Colorado and Illinois,
where all graduating seniors are required to take the ACT and in Maine,
where all graduating seniors are required to take the SAT. The
gender gap on composite ACT scores in both Colorado and Illinois was
almost nonexistent, but girls did slightly better in reading and English
while boys did slightly better in science and mathematics (ACT High
School Profile Report, 2007) In Maine in 2007, girls had a 32
point advantage in the writing section, a 13 point advantage in the
verbal section, and a 12 point disadvantage in mathematics (Corbett
et al., 2008). These gender differences on the SAT and ACT generally
reinforce the findings of the NAEP with a gender gap favoring females
in reading and writing and a gender gap favoring males in mathematics.
most useful source of information on sex differences in students'
grade point average is the High School Transcript Study (National Center
for Education Statistics, 2007), which examines grades at the end of
high school for a nationally representative sample of 26, 000 high school
graduates. This study is particularly reliable since it does not rely
on self-reported grades. From 1990 through 2005, young women show a
consistent advantage each year in grade point average and the gender
gap in grades in favor of females has increased since 1990. In
2005, females' grade point average was a B (3.09) while males' grade
point average was a C+ (2.86). In 1990, females' GPA was C6 (2.77)
while males' grade point average was a C (2.59). Even in mathematics
and science, where males achieve higher test scores, the GPA of young
women was higher than the grade point average of young men.
large, nationally representative studies, such as the 1972 Longitudinal
Survey of high school seniors and the National Educational Longitudinal
Survey of high school students show a considerable female advantage
in high school grades. Analyzing these surveys, Golden, Katz,
and Kuziemko (2006:8) conclude that "girls achieved considerably higher
grades in high school than did boys" and "in the NLS, the median
girl was 17 percentile poings [in class rank] above the median boy."
The Higher Education Research Institute has surveyed American college
freshmen since 1966 and its standard survey question asks freshmen to
report their high school grade point average (Pryor et al., 2007). The
pattern of male disadvantage in grade point average is consistent across
years. In 2007, for example, 28% of freshmen women reported a gpa of
A or A6 in high school compared to 21% of freshmen men.
in school districts which serve white students of high socioeconomic
status, where families presumably emphasize school success, show a large
gender gap in favor of females in school grades. In the Wilmette
School District in Illinois, for example, a report on gender differences
(Wilmette, 2006) shows that 74% of 5th grade girls received
an A in reading compared to just 51% of boys. Even in mathematics, subjects
of typical male advantage, 70% of 5th grade girls received
an A in mathematics compared to just 54% of boys. In science,
67% of girls received an A compared to 60% of boys. In the Edina public
school in Minneapolis, with a predominantly white, high income student
body, two-thirds of students of female 6th through 12th
graders on the A Honor roll were female and 35% were male (Edina
Public Schools, 2002).
sum, girls achieve higher grades in school than boys across all school
subjects and enter college with a higher grade point average. Even the
AAUW report challenging the idea that boys lag behind girls acknowledge
the existence of a gender gap in grades (Corbett at al., 2008).
Engagement in School
are less likely to do homework and more likely to come to school unprepared,
which aggravates teachers and reduces school grades. Three times as
man boys as girls said they did no homework whatsoever (males, 11%;
females, 4%). Of students who said they did an hour of less of homework
each week, 19% were boys and 14% were girls (United States High School
sophomores, 1982-2002). Similarly, far more boys said they usually or
often came to school unprepared. Over 30% of boys said they usually
or often came to school without their homework compared to 21% of girls.
Twenty-two percent of boys said they usually or often came wo school
without even paper, pen or pencils compared to just 13% of girls.
Similar sex differences in school engagement also occur among academically
oriented students, those who enter college (Pryor et al, 2007a). Males
were more apt to spend no time or an hour or less in a typical week
without homework, were less likely to come late to class and less apt
to ask questions in class and feedback on their academic work.
also show major differences in participation in school activities (Freeman,
2004). With the exception of athletic teams where males (45%) more than
females (32%), females participated more in student council and student
government (13% female, males, 8%). , music and the performing arts (females.
31%, males, 19%), academic clubs (females, 19%; males, 12%). Females
were also more engaged in many other school clubs and activities (females,
44%; males, 26%).
gifted and talented programs at both the elementary and secondary levels,
no gender gap occurs in participation. Black males, on the other hand,
are under-represented in these programs (Schott Foundation, 2006). While
Black males comprise 9% of the school population, less than 4% are Black
are more apt to repeat a grade (Freeman, 2004). While 8% of males repeated
a grade, just 5% of females did. The preponderance of males repeating
a grade was especially high among Blacks and Hispanics. Among Black
males, for example, more than one in ten repeated a grade in school.
enrolled in special education classes are far more likely to be males.
In 2001-2002, of secondary students with disabilities, 69% were male
and 32% were female. Among students with emotional disturbance, 76%
were male. Of students with learning disabilities, 73% were male. Of
students with multiple disabilities, 65% were male. Hyperactivitiy
is far more common among males with studies measuring the gender gap
ranging from 8 to 1 to 3 to 1. Boys are more than twice as likely to
receive a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and
be placed on medication (Simpson et al., 2008; Center for Disease Control,
2007). While these high rates of male disability may be based
on a trustworthy diagnosis, they may reflect lack of teacher tolerance
for active males.
well-accepted measure of the difficulty of the high school curriculum
is the "New Basics" curriculum consisting of four years of English,
three years of social science, three years of mathematics and science,
two years of a foreign language, and one semester of computer science.
In 2000, 33% of female high school graduates completed these courses
compared to 29% of males (King, 2006). Similarly. 54% of female
sophomores compared to 48% of males were enrolled in a college preparatory
curriculum (National Center for Education Statistics, 2006). Males were
more apt to have taken both remedial English and remedial mathematics
Advanced Placement Program offers coursework for especially able talented
high school students and students who achieve a 3 (qualified) or higher
typically receive college credit. The AP tests measure not only advanced
high school achievement but also motivation, since these difficult courses
require far more homework than other high school courses.
college freshmen, more females had taken advanced placement tests (Pryor
et al., 2007b). Among female students, 43% had taken 1-4 AP tests, and
43% had taken 5 to 9 tests. Among male students, 39% had taken 1 to
4 tests, and 41% had taken 5 to 9 tests. Test-taking followed primarily
traditional patterns with more females taking AP tests in English literature
and composition (64%), psychology (64%), and world history (56%). Males,
however, were far more likely to take AP tests in computer sciene (84%)
and such science courses as physics (65%). While females also took more
tests in human geography, world history, and European history, more
males too AP exams in microeconomics, macroeconomics, government and
calculation of high school dropout rates is controversial, with different
researchers using different statistical techinques, examining different
numbers of states, and thus different populations of students (Haplin
and Klasnik, 2006; Greene and Winters, 2006; Orfield, 2004). What evern
the method of analysis, the fundamental story is the same: Far more
males compared to females drop out of high school with a dramatic gender
gap among males and females.
all students, 32% of males dropped out of school compared to 25% of
female students. While 52% of Black males dropped out of school, 39%
of Black females did. While 48% of Hispanic males dropped out of schools,
just 37% of females did. Furthermre, minority boys are more likely to
be "idle," neither in school nor working (Edelman et al., 2006).
Examining in 1999 the numbers of idele young men, 17% of Black young
men ages 16 to 24 were idle, as were 12% of Hispanic males, and just
4% of white males.
are far more apt to be suspended and expelled, especially Black males.
Of kindergarten through 12th grade students, 9% of males
had been suspended during their school years compared to 4% of female
students, and three times as many males had been expelled (Freeman
and Fox, 2005). Black males were suspended at nearly three times the
rate of white male students (2008). Boys are far more likely to be expelled
even from preschool programs--- boys were expelled at a rate of 4.5
times more than girls.
Students Receiving Top Academic
National Honor Society requires a grade point average of B or above
and participates are chosen on the basis as well of outstanding achievement
in service, leadership, character, and citizenship. According
to an enrollment specialist, almost twice the proportion of females
(64%) compared to males (36%) were members of the National Honor Society
iin 2007, and this proportion has remained constant in recent years
9Felder, personal communication, March 28, 2008).
the increased policy emphasis on closing the gender gap in science and
mathematics, winners of the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search
and the Siemens Math, Science, and Technology competion are a visible
indicator of the sex of students at the pinnacle of achievement. From
2006 through 2008, all the first place winners of the Intel competition
have been female. From 2001 through 2008, 5 females and 3 males took
top place. Among the top ten winners, however, females placed in 50%
of award winners in just three of these eight years with males predominating
in five of these eight years.
Siemens Math, Science, and Technology winners are most often males.
In 2007-2008, however, young women swept the Siemens competition for
the first time with one female achieving first place in the individual
competition and two females achieving first place in the team competition.
In the previous year, however, a male achieved first place in the individual
competition, and three males placed first in the team comppetion. In
2005-2006, again the first place individual winner was male and the
team winners consisted of a male and a female.
Scholars are selected from college seniors on the basis of their achievement
and contributions to their fields and to socially important endeavors.
Examining the sex distribution of Rhodes Scholars from 2004 through
2008, males predominate, receiving 55% of prestigious Rhodes scholarships
in these four years.
Enrollment and Graduation Rates
alarm about a "boy crisis" is most often justified by the increasing
proportion of males who enter and graduate from college. Students
who enroll in postsecondary education right after high school have higher
rates of graduation than students who postpone college (Horn et al.,
2005), and these are more apt to be female (King, 2006). Women
are also more apt to complete a bachelor degree within five years of
entering college (Freeman, 2004). Among freshmen seeking a bachelor's
degree who graduated from high school in 1966, 66% of young women but
only 59% of males had completed a bachelor's degree by 2001.
This gender gap was far higher among Blacks (males, 37%; females, 51%).
A large gender gap has developed in postsecondary education, with the
percentage of women who are female increasing from 52% to 56% (National
Center for Education Statistics, 2005). A large gender gap has also
developed in the attainment of most secondary degrees, with the problem
especially serious among Black and Hispanic males (Buchmann and Diprete,
2006). Among whites, women obtained 61% of associate degrees, 57% of
bachelor's degrees, 62% of master's degrees, 54% of doctoral degrees,
and 53% of first -professional degrees. Among Blacks, women obtained
61% of associate degrees, 66% of bachelor's degrees, 72% of master's
degrees, 64% of doctoral degrees, and 64% of first-professional degrees.
Among Hispanics, women obtained 62% of associate degrees, 61% of bachelor's
degrees, 65% of master's degrees, 56% of doctoral degrees, and 48%
of first-professional degrees.
enrollment and graduation rates of women in the prestigious, high income
fields of law and medicine has just about reached parity with that of
men. In medical school, 49% of both first-year students and graduates
were women in 2005-2006 (Association of American Medical Colleges, 2008).
In law schools, 47% of both first-year students and graduates were women
in 2007-2008 (American Bar Association, 2008).
gender gap in obtaining postsecondary degrees has several, overlapping
explanations. Given the rise in divorce rates since the 1960s,
women see a far greater need to be able to support themselves and their
children (Golden et al., 2006). The Women's Movement has created
an image of the contemporary woman as independent and self-sufficient
while men find their traditional role as major family provider of less
importance, and they are more able to find sexual satisfaction without
the need to marry and support a family. Gains in income for postsecondary
educational attainment, the ‘wage premium," are greater for women
than for men (Perna, 2004). Women are also more likely to want
employment in credentialed occupations, such as teaching, nursing, and
counseling, where a postsecondary degree is necessary. Young men
are also less apt to enjoy the experience of schooling (Gurian and Stevens,
2005; Tyre, 2008).
Mental Health and Suicide
Boys suffer from far more emotional and behavioral problems than girls.
Among students ages 4 to 17, almost 1 in 5 parents had talked to a health
care provider or school staff about their sons' problems, compared
to just over 1 in 10 who had talked about their daughter's problems
(Simpson et al., 2008). Further, boys were also prescribed medication
for these problems twice as often as girls.
The most compelling evidence of a "boy crisis" is the overwhelming
gender gap in suicides. To take one's own life signfies profound pessimism
and psychological disturbance. The suicide of their children creates
lasting emotional damage to families who blame themselves for not recognizing
psychological problems and doing enough to prevent their children from
most recent information on suicide by sex and age group is available
from the National Center for Health Statistics. Suicide rates were calculated
from this data system for this study from 1995 to 2005. Males outnumber
females in completed suicides by astonishing rates, especially young
men from ages 20 to 24, when young men are beginning adult life.
Attempts: While completed suicides are far more common among males,
ranging from 6 to 2 times as often in different age groups, suicide
attempts, gestures, and ideation are more common among females (National
Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 2008).
In 2007, female students were more likely to seriously consider attempting
suicide (females, 19%; males, 10%); make a plan about how they would
commit suicide (females, 13%; males, 9%); and actually attempt suicide
(females, 9%; males, 5%). Suicide ideation and plans are a common
sign of depression, a serious psychological disorder where females predominate.
The completed suicides of young men, also indicate high rates of depression
and other serious mental health problems.
A psychiatric diagnosis of depression differs substantially from the
common usage of the term--- feeling miserable. The psychiatric diagnosis
is "major depressive disorder" and includes such symptoms as loss
of interest in pleasurable activities, crying, self-hatred, inability
to make decisions, isolating one's self, extremely low energy, and
suicidal thoughts. Depression among children and adolescents is often
a precursor or severe and debilitating depression in adulthood.
recent review of the literature on depression concludes that girls experience
depressive symptoms far more frequently than boys (Bailey, 2007).
Twice as many teenage girls suffer from depression (Ciccetti and Toth,
1998). The greater proportion of female high school students experiencing
depression is also documented for high school students who enter college.
Eight percent of female college freshmen in 2007 said they felt depressed
in high school compared to five percent of males (Pryor et al., 2007b).
disorders are also far more common among girls, particularly perfectionist
girls from middle-class families who are responding to cultural pressures
to be thin. The National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention
and Health Promotion (2008) found that eating disorders, including
vomiting and taking laxitives to control weight were far more common
among girls (females, 6%; males, 2%).
Conduct Disorders: The diagnosis of conduct disorder is based on antisocial behavior spanning physical aggression, extensive lying, stealing, destruction of property, and conflicts with authority. (Nationally representative studies of conduct disorders among American children could not be located, but sophisticated studies of conduct disorders among British and Australian children have been conducted.)
Boys predominate in conduct disorders by wide margins. In a study of
10, 438 children, ages 5 to 15, drawn from the 1999 British Child Mental
Health Survey, conduct disorders were found to be almost three times
as frequent in boys compared to girls (Maughan et al., 2004).
The most comprehensive and sophisticated study of sex differences in
antisocial behavior followed a sample of 1, 000 children from age 3 to
21 (Moffitt et al, 2001). Almost all girls who engaged in antisocial
behavior fit the "adolescence limited" type, where the sex ration
was 1.5 males to 1 female. Far more males fit the more serious "life-course-persistent
type of antisocial behavior where the sex ratio was 10 males to 1 female.
Thus, the female form of conduct disorder was primarily a phenomenon
of adolescence, while the male type led to serious antisocial behavior
such as adult criminality.
deaths and injuries: Among children and young people from ages 5
to 24 in 1995 to 2005, males are far more likely to die from violence
and virtually every other type of risky behavior--- firearms, drowning,
motor vehicles, motorcycles and bicycle deaths (National Center for
Health Statistics, 1995-2005). To take a few examples, among 20
to 24 year-olds, 48.2 per 10, 000 males compared to just 8.1 per 100, 000
females die from violence. Among 15 to 19 year-olds, 28.6 per 100, 000
males die from violence compared to 5.7 per 100, 000 females. Among 20
to 24 year-old males, 36.4 per 100, 000 die from firearms compared to
4 per 100, 000 females.
of every age group also have higher rates of injury in every category
except self-harm (National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, 2006).
The rate of nonfatal firearm injuries among 20 to 24 year-olds, for
example, was 154.7 per 100, 000 injuries among young men compared to
16.8 among young women. Among 15 to 19 year-olds, the rate of
such injuries was 126.2 per 100, 000 among boys compared to just 11.3
per 100, 000 among girls.
Delinquency and Arrests
juvenile delinquency and in arrest rates for every type of offense with
the exception of runaways, males predominate by wide margins (National
Center for Juvenile Justice, 2007). Among males, the delinquency rate
is 74.7 cases per 1, 000 compared to 29.4 cases per 1, 000 among females.
to specific offenses, arrests for violent crimes (including murder,
manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault are 486.2
cases per 100, 000 among males compared to 108.7 cases per 100, 000 among
females. Arrests for property crimes (including burglary, larceny-theft,
motor vehicle theft, and arson) are 1605.5 cases per 100, 000 males compared
to 805.8 per 100, 00 among females. Arrests for drug abuse violations
are 968.5 cases per 100, 000 among males compared to 191.3 cases among
females. It is important to keep in mind that arrest rates are
not the same as conviction rates, which are unavailable.
boys are suffering serious problems. In education, these center in the
areas of far lower literacy, lower school grades, lower engagement in
school, higher dropout from school, higher rates of repeating a grade,
higher placement in special education, higher rates of suspensions and
expulsions, and lower rates of postsecondary enrollment and graduation.
In each of these domains, Black boys and young men are doing far worse
than Black girls and young women.
men are far less prepared than young women to succeed in the current
knowledge-based economy, are more likely to suffer from substantial
declines in real income, and are far more vulnerable to unemployment
in times of economic recession. Less educated young men participate
less in civic and political activities, are less likely to marry, and
are less attractive mates to increasingly high-achieving, well-educated
the top, however, boys and young men are succeeding at higher rates
than girls. Boys are more likely to take demanding Advanced Placement
examinations in the sciences and have consistently outperformed girls
at the pinnacle of achievement, such as winners of the Intel Science
Competition, the Siemens Math, Science, and Technology Competition,
and Rhodes scholars.
some analysts argue that the fundamental issues are race and class,
rather than sex, this is not the case. It is boys who are performing
at strikingly lower levels in literacy. It is boys who have substantially
higher dropout rates, placement in special education classes, disciplinary
problems leading to suspension and expulsion, and far lower levels of
school engagement and participation in postsecondary education. Black
boys are particularly at risk.
the educational problems of girls have led to numerous policy efforts
to increase their achievement in areas where they are behind, such as
achievement in mathematics and science at the top, the problems of boys
have been largely ignored by federal agencies, foundations, and school
districts. This study has brought together available information on
boys' difficulties, which demonstrate the need to focus on these issues.
Great Britain and Australia have led the way, initiating numerous educational
programs, especially in literacy, to identify best practices and deal
with boys' educational deficits. Several approaches have been proposed--- single
sex schools and classroom, changes in the curricula of Schools of Education,
inservice programs for teachers on the problems of boys, male mentors
offering models of successful manhood, and more male teachers.
Few of these ideas have been put into practice and scientific evaluations
of their relative success is non-existent. The policy emphasis on girls'
issues has continued, shifting from school achievement to increasing
the numbers of young women entering and succeeding in demanding scientific
the "boy crisis" concerns far more than educational difficulties.
Boys and young men suffer from far higher suicide rates, conduct disorders,
juvenile delinquency, and arrest rates, especially for serious crimes.
This is not to say that girls and young women are not at risk for mental
health problems. Rates of depression and eating disorders are far higher
among females. These problems should not be ignored.
groups who proclaim either a "boy crisis" or a "girl crisis"
are misguided. Neither sex is in crisis with the exception of Black
boys and young men. The characteristic difficulties of girls,
however, have been and are still being addressed. The difficulties
of boys, however, which span far more areas, have been generally ignored.
Those who call attention to the problems of boys are not anti-feminist
or resentful of girls' progress and success. The debate over which
sex is worse off goes in no useful direction. Both boys and girls face
characteristic problems which need policy attention.
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