Dynamics of the Gender Gap in High Math Achievement

Peer-reviewed Publication

Glenn Ellison and Ashley Swanson

June 2021

The authors examine dynamics in the gender gap in high school mathematics achievement using competition data. A clear gender gap is present by 9th grade, and the gap widens over time. Gender-related diferences in dropout rates and in the mean and variance of year-to-year improvement contribute to the widening of the gender gap. The most important difference is that fewer girls make large enough gains to improve their rankings. The authors also document a discouragement effect: among students falling just short of qualifying for a prestigious second-stage exam, some drop out of future years, and this reaction may be stronger among girls.