Gender, Perceptions of Opportunity, and Investment in Schooling

Angel L. Harris

in Growing Gaps

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780199732180
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199866182 | DOI:
Gender, Perceptions of Opportunity, and Investment in Schooling

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This chapter focuses on the gap between young men and young women in educational attainment. In several countries, young women are more engaged in their education and are completing credentials at higher rates than are young men. From the perspective of rational choice theory, this is paradoxical: if young women benefit less than men from education, they ought to invest themselves less, not more, than men. Some scholars have attempted to explain this apparent paradox through the idea of a “Pollyanna hypothesis”—the notion that young women do not perceive themselves as economically underrewarded for their credentials and, being unaware, they continue eagerly to seek education. However, testing of the Pollyanna notion using data on adolescent educational attainment in the US state of Maryland shows that it lacks empirical validity. The young women in the study are quite aware that, as women, they will face economic discrimination. Notwithstanding this perception, young women invest themselves more in education than male adolescents: they spend more time on homework, are more likely to seek assistance with academic problems, and are more involved in school activities such as clubs. The anomaly or paradox, therefore, remains. Young women do not enjoy the same labor-market benefits from education as young men do; they are quite aware of this inequity, nevertheless young women invest more in their education than do their male counterparts.

Keywords: gender gap; educational attainment; Pollyana hypothesis; young women; gender inequality

Chapter.  7710 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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