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Non-cognitive Skills and the Gender Disparities in Test Scores and Teacher Assessments: Evidence from Primary School

  • Cornwell, Christopher


    (University of Georgia)

  • Mustard, David B.


    (University of Georgia)

  • Van Parys, Jessica


    (Columbia University)

We extend the analysis of early-emerging gender differences in academic achievement to include both (objective) test scores and (subjective) teacher assessments. Using data from the 1998-99 ECLS-K cohort, we show that the grades awarded by teachers are not aligned with test scores, with the disparities in grading exceeding those in testing outcomes and uniformly favoring girls, and that the misalignment of grades and test scores can be linked to gender differences in non-cognitive development. Girls in every racial category outperform boys on reading tests and the differences are statistically significant in every case except for black fifth-graders. Boys score at least as well on math and science tests as girls, with the strongest evidence of a gender gap appearing among whites. However, boys in all racial categories across all subject areas are not represented in grade distributions where their test scores would predict. Even those boys who perform equally as well as girls on reading, math and science tests are nevertheless graded less favorably by their teachers, but this less favorable treatment essentially vanishes when non-cognitive skills are taken into account. White boys who perform on par with white girls on these subject-area tests and exhibit the same non-cognitive skill level are graded similarly. For some specifications there is evidence of a grade "bonus" for white boys with test scores and behavior like their girl counterparts. While the evidence is a little weaker for blacks and Hispanics, the message is essentially the same.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 5973.

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Length: 42 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp5973
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  1. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz & Ilyana Kuziemko, 2006. "The Homecoming of American College Women: The Reversal of the College Gender Gap," NBER Working Papers 12139, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Roland G. Fryer & Steven D. Levitt, 2004. "Understanding the Black-White Test Score Gap in the First Two Years of School," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(2), pages 447-464, May.
  3. Holmlund, Helena & Sund, Krister, 2008. "Is the gender gap in school performance affected by the sex of the teacher," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 37-53, February.
  4. Claessens, Amy & Duncan, Greg & Engel, Mimi, 2009. "Kindergarten skills and fifth-grade achievement: Evidence from the ECLS-K," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 415-427, August.
  5. Simon Burgess & Ellen Greaves, 2009. "Test Scores, Subjective Assessment and Stereotyping of Ethnic Minorities," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 09/221, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
  6. Anderson, Michael L., 2008. "Multiple Inference and Gender Differences in the Effects of Early Intervention: A Reevaluation of the Abecedarian, Perry Preschool, and Early Training Projects," Journal of the American Statistical Association, American Statistical Association, vol. 103(484), pages 1481-1495.
  7. Roland G. Fryer & Steven D. Levitt, 2010. "An Empirical Analysis of the Gender Gap in Mathematics," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 210-40, April.
  8. Cho, Donghun, 2007. "The role of high school performance in explaining women's rising college enrollment," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 26(4), pages 450-462, August.
  9. Zeman, Klarka & Frenette, Marc, 2007. "Why Are Most University Students Women? Evidence Based on Academic Performance, Study Habits and Parental Influences," Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series 2007303e, Statistics Canada, Analytical Studies Branch.
  10. James J. Heckman & Paul A. LaFontaine, 2010. "The American High School Graduation Rate: Trends and Levels," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(2), pages 244-262, May.
  11. Victor Lavy & Analía Schlosser, 2007. "Mechanisms and Impacts of Gender Peer Effects at School," NBER Working Papers 13292, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Loury, Linda Datcher, 2004. "Siblings and gender differences in African-American college attendance," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 213-219, June.
  13. Victor Lavy & Anal�a Schlosser, 2011. "Corrigendum: Mechanisms and Impacts of Gender Peer Effects at School," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 268-268, July.
  14. Lavy, Victor, 2008. "Do gender stereotypes reduce girls' or boys' human capital outcomes? Evidence from a natural experiment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(10-11), pages 2083-2105, October.
  15. Julian R. Betts & Darlene Morell, 1999. "The Determinants of Undergraduate Grade Point Average: The Relative Importance of Family Background, High School Resources, and Peer Group Effects," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 34(2), pages 268-293.
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