Glenn Ellison and Ashley Swanson provide evidence that suggests that math score gender gaps are highly related to environmental factors. High scoring men are very geographically disperse, yet high-scoring women are highly concentrated at certain schools. Here’s how they put it ” whereas the boys come from a variety of backgrounds, the top-scoring girls are almost exclusively drawn from a remarkably small set of super-elite schools”.
ABSTRACT: This paper uses a new data source, American Mathematics Competitions, to examine the gender gap among high school students at very high achievement levels. The data bring out several new facts. There is a large gender gap that widens dramatically at percentiles above those that can be examined using standard data sources. An analysis of unobserved heterogeneity indicates that there is only moderate variation in the gender gap across schools. The highest achieving girls in the U.S. are concentrated in a very small set of elite schools, suggesting that almost all girls with the ability to reach high math achievement levels are not doing so.
HT: Caroline Hoxby (mentioned these results in her Berkeley seminar yesterday).