Social and behavioral skills and the gender gap in early educational achievement

Thomas A. DiPrete, Jennifer L. Jennings

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Though many studies have suggested that social and behavioral skills play a central role in gender stratification processes, we know little about the extent to which these skills affect gender gaps in academic achievement. Analyzing data from the Early Child Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort, we demonstrate that social and behavioral skills have substantively important effects on academic outcomes from kindergarten through fifth grade. Gender differences in the acquisition of these skills, moreover, explain a considerable fraction of the gender gap in academic outcomes during early elementary school. Boys get roughly the same academic return to social and behavioral skills as their female peers, but girls begin school with more advanced social and behavioral skills and their skill advantage grows over time. While part of the effect may reflect an evaluation process that rewards students who better conform to school norms, our results imply that the acquisition of social and behavioral skills enhances learning as well. Our results call for a reconsideration of the family and school-level processes that produce gender gaps in social and behavioral skills and the advantages they confer for academic and later success.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalSocial Science Research
Volume41
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2012

Keywords

  • Educational achievement
  • Gender
  • Gender stratification
  • Social and behavior skills

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science

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