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Males at the Tails: How Socioeconomic Status Shapes the Gender Gap

Working Paper

David Autor, David Figlio, Krzysztof Karbownik, Jeffrey Roth, and Melanie Wasserman

June 2020

Analyzing Florida birth certificates matched to school records, we document that the female advantage in childhood behavioral and academic outcomes is driven by gender gaps at the extremes of the outcome distribution. Using unconditional quantile regression, we investigate whether family socioeconomic status (SES) differentially affects the lower tail outcomes of boys. We find that the differential effects of family SES on boys’ outcomes are concentrated in the parts of the distribution where the gender gaps are most pronounced. Accounting for the disproportionate effects of family environment on boys at the tails substantially narrows the gender gap in high school dropout.