It’s well known that girls have pulled ahead of boys in most aspects of academic achievement. Girls have gotten better grades (in high school) than boys for over 40 years. What’s changed is a noticeable increase at the top end: More A’s for girls, but not for boys. Nicole M. Fortin, Philip Oreopoulos, and Shelley Phipps have some intriguing evidence about what might explain the change.
At the same time that girls have moved to more A’s, they’ve also considerably upped their plans to go on to more higher education. Notably, what’s really changed is the share of girls who say they plan to go to graduate school. (It’s also true that boys get into trouble in school more often than girls and are more likely to aspire only to 2-year colleges.) Fortin and coauthors do the requisite statistics, but they also tell the story in pictures. Here are two of their graphs. The first shows the widening of the gender gap in getting A’s. The second shows the change in graduate school aspirations.
I suppose we could argue about whether the increased expectations cause the higher grades or whether the higher grades leads to increased expectations, but I’d bet on causation largely running from expectations to grades.