The Gap Between Boys and Girls
Compared with their sisters, boys are less likely to be ready for kindergarten and more likely to miss school. The gender gap is the largest for poor boys.
Boys tend to have more discipline problems than girls over all. But the difference is much bigger for black and Latino children — and more than half of the difference is because of poverty and related problems, the researchers found. For instance, while boys in well-off families have almost the same test scores as their sisters, the gap is more than three times as large in the most disadvantaged families, the study found. While well-off boys are 3.1 percentage points less likely than their sisters to be ready for kindergarten, the most disadvantaged boys are 8.5 percentage points less likely.
Boys aren’t born this way. Babies of low-income mothers are less healthy, but the boys are not worse off than the girls.
Though disadvantaged children are more likely to be in underperforming schools or neighborhoods with drugs and violence, this alone does not explain the gender gap, the researchers said. Even in the same neighborhood and schools and for children of the same race, the gender gap is wider in less-advantaged families.
For policy makers, the study’s results show disadvantage should be taken into account when devising ways to help boys, and gender should be considered when helping poor children, since boys and girls seem to respond differently.
For educators, research points to the importance for boys of early interventions, like high-quality preschool and mentoring.
For parents, the data show the payoffs of spending more time with children, especially boys, Ms. Bertrand said. For single parents, supporting their families on one income, that might be easier said than done.