Gendered Capital: Childhood Socialization and the “Boy
Crisis” in Education
Amy J. Orr
Published online: 7 June 2011
Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011
Abstract This study examined the effect of gender
socialization on kindergarten grades using data from
the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study- Kindergarten
Cohort. The sample consisted of 6,394 children (3,177
girls; 3,217 boys) from across the United States.
MANOVA and follow-up tests revealed that both boys
and girls tend to participate in gender-typed activities.
Girls are more likely to have positive school attitudes
and exhibit positive social behavior; boys are more
likely to have negative school attitudes. Regression
analyses indicated that participation in “female” activi-
ties and positive social behavior positively affect grades;
participation in “male” activities has no direct effect.
Positive attitudes positively affect the grades of girls;
negative attitudes negatively affect the grades of boys.
Teacher evaluation practices are also considered.
In 2000, Christina Hoff Sommers began an article in the
Atlantic Monthly with the following statement: “This we
think we know: American schools favor boys and grind
down girls. The truth is the very opposite. By virtually
every measure, girls are thriving in school; it is the boys
who are the second sex” (p. 59).
The basis for Sommers’ claim was that boys are more
likely than girls to drop out of school, have lower grade
point averages, and are seen more often on learning
disability lists. Sommers also noted that boys score lower
than girls on reading and writing tests. Though only
indirectly noted by Sommers in her article, it is also
important to note that numerous reports indicate that girls
surpass boys in college enrollment (see, for example,
Corbett et al. 2008; U.S. Census Bureau 2009).
Most of the evidence used by Sommers to support her
claims can be easily verified empirically. However, the
picture of gender and education is not complete without
considering a number of other factors. For example, overall
trends across numerous educational outcomes tend to be
positive for both genders. Males and females both have
higher high school graduation rates, college enrollment
rates, and college graduation rates than ever before, and test
scores for both males and females have either increased or
remained the same over the past several decades (Corbett
et al. 2008). Also, although overall trends indicate that girls
are making gains at a higher rate than boys, within-gender
differences are extensive, especially with regard to class
and race (see, for example, Entwisle et al. 2007; Levine
et al. 2005).
In addition, though girls outperform boys on standard-
ized tests such as the SAT writing test, statistics reveal that
boys outperform girls on a number of other standardized
tests, especially those considered to be “high stakes”
(American Association of University Women 1998; College
Board 2008; Corbett et al. 2008).
Finally, girls continue to be unequally rewarded for their
educational achievements (Mickelson 1989). For example,
recent statistics indicate that the median annual income of
women is approximately 78% that of men (DeNavas-Walt
et al. 2008), and occupational sex segregation is still
A. J. Orr (*)
Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Linfield College,
900 SE Baker St.,
McMinnville, OR 97128, USA
Sex Roles (2011) 65:271–284