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AJS. 2008;114 Suppl:S138-70.

Gender differences in extreme mathematical achievement: an international perspective on biological and social factors.

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Department of Sociology, University of California, Irvine, California 92697-5100, USA.


Genetic and other biological explanations have reemerged in recent scholarship on the underrepresentation of women in mathematics and the sciences. This study engages this debate by using international data-including math achievement scores from the Third International Mathematics and Sciences Study and country-level data from the World Bank, the United Nations, the International Labour Organization, the World Values Survey, and the International Social Survey Programme-to demonstrate the importance of social factors and to estimate an upper bound for the impact of genetic factors. The author argues that international variation provides a valuable opportunity to present simple and powerful arguments for the continued importance of social factors. In addition, where previous research has, by and large, focused on differences in population means, this work examines gender differences throughout the distribution. The article shows that there is considerable variation in gender differences internationally, a finding not easily explained by strictly biological theories. Modeling the cross-national variation in gender differences with country-level predictors reveals that differences among high achievers are related to gender inequality in the labor market and differences in the overall status of men and women.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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