Friday, September 18, 2009

The Gender Gap: now you see it, now you don't

"TRADITION has it that boys are good at counting and girls are good at reading, but the reasons for the differences have always been hotly contested. Now a new study by Luigi Guiso of the European University Institute of Florence and his colleagues published in Science suggests that culture explains most of the difference, in maths at least. The researchers compared a country's OECD 2003 maths and reading test results with various measures of social sexual equality. On average, girls' maths scores were lower than boys' but the gap was largest in countries with the least equality between the sexes, such as Turkey. It vanished in countries such as Norway and Sweden, where sexes are pretty much on a par. And the gap in reading scores increased, with girls doing even better in more equal societies."

This is a chart from The Economist: it shows that Muslim girls (here Turkish girls stand-in for Muslim girls in general) score the lowest over their male classmates in maths.

Now consider the chart below: this shows that the gender gap in income earned is the lowest in Turkey. But I thought Turkey was the country in the OECD "with the least equality between the sexes"! Something seems to have gone wrong. Turkey is and is not one of the countries with the least equality between the sexes.

It appears that the stupid-and-neglected Turkish girls somehow make it though university without mathematics, and, as anthropologists and (no doubt) women's studies experts earn as much as their better-trained mathematically proficient counterparts in the labour market. Curioser and curioser!

"UNIVERSITY offers more than the chance to indulge in a few years of debauchery. A new report from the OECD, a rich country think-tank, attempts to measure how much more graduates can expect to earn compared with those who seek jobs without having a degree. In America the lifetime gross earnings of male graduates are, on average, nearly $370,000 higher than those of non-graduates, comfortably repaying the pricey investment in a university education (female graduates earn an extra $229,000). In South Korea and Spain female graduates pull in a lot more than their male counterparts. In Turkey, although the additional wages are more modest, the difference between men and women is far less pronounced."

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