Gender differences in education: how do they come about?

Project leader

Funding source

Forte - Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare

Project Details

Start date: 01/01/2017
End date: 31/12/2019
Funding: 2730000 SEK


Gender differences in educational outcomes have received much attention in Swedish and international debate. But how do they come about? There is a lack of empirical research on the processes behind the fact that girls and young women on average do better than males in school, and we still lack knowledge about why there is such a strong horizontal gender segregation in education. The aim of this project is to empirically test hypotheses on how gender differences in education arise and are maintained.

It is commonly suggested that masculinity norms and anti-school attitudes make boys perform worse than girls in school. Studies based on ethnographic and small-scale data have provided valuable insights but cannot tell us whether such mechanisms lie behind the observed differences in the population. A main contribution of this project is to fill this gap, using rich large-scale data on crucial steps in the educational career.

The project follows young people as their educational trajectories develop, from compulsory education, to upper secondary, and further on to higher education, using a new four-country study and (in Sweden) matched register data. We ask to what extent female advantages are driven by superior grades and to what extent by a higher likelihood to choose higher education at given grades, and we look at the mechanisms behind: Why do they have higher grades, why do they make high-aspiring choices of level of education, and why are the choices of educational field so strongly patterned by gender?

A central aim is to study social influence from peers, using data clustered by schools and classes, and including network nominations, meaning that we can measure features of the social context that are rarely included in large-scale studies, such as peers’ anti-school attitudes, school effort, gender-equality attitudes, and extrovert behavior. We also use teacher information on school climate, and parental reports on aspirations and expectations for the child.

Last updated on 2017-03-04 at 13:04