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What’s Behind the Gender Gap in Education?

Girls have a built-in neurological advantage over boys when it comes to language skills, according to new research from Northwestern University and the University of Haifa. The researchers found that while girls can easily process language in the abstract, boys depend more on their senses. The upshot is that boys may need to be taught both visually and verbally, while girls can learn equally well through either means and presumably have an easier time with learning because of it.

The findings may shed some light on a question that has been puzzling Gary Becker and Richard Posner: why do boys, on average, perform worse academically than girls do, from primary school right on through college?

The underperformance of boys has contributed to a striking reversal of the gender gap in higher education over the last fifty years. Women now decisively outnumber men on the nation’s college campuses, and they graduate at a higher rate than men do. Becker thinks the reduced pressure on women to marry and have children young, matched with the increased pressure on them to compete in the labor force, partly explains why women have closed the gender gap. But why have they hurtled past men in college enrollment and graduation? What else accounts for the new gender gap, and what should be done to address it?