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Gender Matters
Working Class Boys Struggling Across the Anglosphere

It’s becoming increasingly clear that the popular framing of the relationship between gender and educational advantage in the West—that boys get special privileges while girls are discriminated against—is no longer particularly accurate or useful. The latest case in point: Working class male students in the UK face worse educational outcomes than their sisters, according to a new Oxford University study. Pam Sammons, the lead author, summarized her findings in Conversation UK:

We know that children from less affluent homes are much less likely to get good GCSE and A-level results, access the most selective universities and secure leading jobs. But we know less about the impact that other factors – such as their gender, ethnicity or where they live – have on a pupil’s academic outcome.

Our research, published by the Sutton Trust charity, found that some young people experience a “double disadvantage”. Being a boy and poor, especially being a boy of white UK background, much diminishes the likelihood of going on to advanced level studies. Growing up in a poor neighbourhood also has a negative impact on long-term outcomes up to age 18. […]

Our study shows that the adverse impact of family disadvantage was also particularly evident for boys. Disadvantaged boys were less likely to go on to advanced level studies than disadvantaged girls, with just 40% of them carrying on an academic route compared with 55% of their girl peers.

Researchers have observed similar patterns in the United States. MIT’s David Autor recently published a widely publicized study on outcomes for American boys and girls, which concluded (in the New York Times‘s words) that “any disadvantage, like growing up in poverty, in a bad neighborhood or without a father, takes more of a toll on boys than on their sisters.”

This doesn’t mean that boys are “oppressed” as a class. Males really do retain certain systematic advantages—just look at the composition of the U.S. Congress, or the Forbes wealthiest people list. But it does show that constructing rigid hierarchies of privilege—in which being male is always an advantage, and never poses its own set of challenges—is probably not the best way to understand the challenges facing students in the Anglosphere.

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  • rheddles

    Males really do retain certain systematic advantages—just look at the composition of the U.S. Congress, or the Forbes wealthiest people list.

    The composition of Congress and the Forbes wealthiest people list tell us nothing about the rest of the male population. Males also constitute more of the prison population and the mentally retarded. All this means is that the standard deviation of the distributions is greater for males than females. It says nothing about where the mean or median lie.

  • Jim__L

    All power is local.

    How in the world does “the composition of the US Congress or the Forbes wealthiest people list” benefit the boys cited in this study??? Clearly it does not!

    All this shows is the sheer stupidity of lumping people together in demographics. Outcomes are by nature individual, and what Big Government thinks is a scalpel is instead, upon the magnification it receives when it is applied at the individual level, a huge, nicked, and pitted blunt instrument.


  • ljgude

    Tell me about it. I’m the father of two sons and the grandfather of very different grandsons. Raised in diverse areas of the Anglosphere. Most boys don’t take well to school – I was an exception personally – and I’d say my youngest grandson shows some signs of not despising it. My middle grandson went off to college and got a tech internship. He didn’t flunk out but didn’t do well either for two years, but he kept the internship and now works full time for the company in the valley. The oldest was like the horse that wouldn’t drink – no matter what. Education has always been a hit or miss affair with boys and the more nannyish it gets the harder it is for them to stomach it. Boys will, I would venture to predict, thrive in the chaos that follows the collapse of the higher education bubble to say nothing of the chaos that will ensue if jihad becomes a serious issue.

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