Working paper 03/084 - Abstract

Girls Rock, Boys Roll: An Analysis of the Age 14-16 Gender Gap in English Schools (PDF, file 430 KB) (PDF, 433kB)

Simon Burgess, Brendon McConnell, Carol Propper and Deborah Wilson

The aim of this paper is to examine gender related differences in performance at age 16. We investigate a number of possible explanations for the underachievement of boys relative to girls, the so-called 'gender gap'. We employ a national dataset of the matched exam results of the entire cohort of pupils who took Key Stage 3 tests in 1999 and GCSEs in 2001: over half a million pupils in over 3000 schools. Our key result is the sheer consistency of the gender gap, across both the attainment and the ability distribution, with regard to both raw outcomes and value added. It is primarily driven by performance differentials in English. We show that it is not related to whether a school performs well or poorly, or whether it is effective or ineffective. Nor is it affected by any of the leading observable school characteristics. The generality of the gender gap suggests that its source is not within-school practice, which in turn means that policy directed at improving such practice may be misplaced.

Published in Scottish Journal of Political Economy 51 (2) 209-229 (2004)

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