Saturday, March 15, 2014

Maybe It's Not The Patriarchy After All

Short of compelling women to opt for STEM majors, perhaps we should let freedom ring and allow people to make their own choices:
The college majors that tend to lead to the most profitable professions are also the stingiest about awarding A’s. Science departments grade, on a four-point scale, an average of 0.4 points lower than humanities departments, according to a 2010 analysis of national grading data by Stuart Rojstaczer and Christopher Healy. And two new research studies suggest that women might be abandoning these lucrative disciplines precisely because they’re terrified of getting B’s.

Claudia Goldin, an economics professor at Harvard, has been examining why so few women major in her field . The majority of new college grads are female, yet women receive only 29 percent of bachelor’s degrees in economics each year.

Goldin looked at how grades awarded in an introductory economics class affected the chance that a student would ultimately major in the subject. She found that the likelihood a woman would major in economics dropped steadily as her grade fell: Women who received a B in Econ 101, for example, were about half as likely as women who received A’s to stick with the discipline. The same discouragement gradient didn’t exist for men. Of Econ 101 students, men who received A’s were about equally as likely as men who received B’s to concentrate in the dismal science.

Another research project, led by Peter Arcidiacono at Duke University, is finding similar trends in science, technology, engineering and mathematics...

“Maybe women just don’t want to get things wrong,” Goldin hypothesized. “They don’t want to walk around being a B-minus student in something. They want to find something they can be an A student in. They want something where the professor will pat them on the back and say ‘You’re doing so well!’ ”

“Guys,” she added, “don’t seem to give two damns.”
Why are we still concerning ourselves with women, college, and their degrees?  What is this, the 1960's?  The world's changed a bit, and if there's any trouble out there,  the trouble is that not enough men are attending universities anymore, and this will have profound social impacts.  The trouble starts well before college level, with boys having significantly more problems, both academic and social, in our K-12 schools.  Everyone knows this but it's not really politically correct to discuss it.  Rather than worry about that we'll worry about why women don't want to major in economics.  For some reason it's easier to hand-wring about that.


PeggyU said...

I don't know ... my son stresses about his calc grades. He threatens to throw in the towel, then doesn't, though, so maybe there's something to this. He's now nearing the end of his third course.

I will say, he certainly didn't give a flying flip about his grades in high school!

Jerry Doctor said...

Problem: Not enough females in STEM majors.

Explanation: Too hard to get A's and females like A's.

Solution: Lower requirements and give more A's.

Problem: STEM majors can't get jobs.

Explanation: Employers discover the new STEM graduates don't know anything.

Solution: STEM majors need to go to graduate school.

Problem: Not enough females in graduate school STEM programs.

etc., etc., etc...

X said...

Women are more risk-averse, and less likely to be overconfident. Both of those could contribute to a likelihood of changing subjects after getting a B.