Boys and men are in trouble. Compared to women, relatively few boys or men enroll in or complete higher education. Boys and men don’t participate in the workforce up to their full potential. They’re disproportionately dying deaths of despair from suicide, drug overdoses and substance abuse. Parents worry about their sons’ futures. While recent cultural and economic changes have created problems specific to boys and men, most liberal and conservative politicians alike fail to acknowledge the crisis or do anything about it. Brookings Institution scholar Richard Reeves offers concrete suggestions that can help men without damaging women’s hard-won advances.
Boys lag behind girls in education.
There is a huge, unexpected gender gap in education. As of 1972, women were 13% behind men in obtaining bachelor’s degrees. That gap was sufficiently significant that the US government passed legislation to promote equality between the genders in education. By 2019, the gap reversed: Boys were 15% behind girls in obtaining bachelor’s degrees.
This educational gender gap cuts across all levels and countries. The renowned excellence of Finland’s educational system, for example, almost entirely reflects girls’ performance. On average, girls are a year ahead of boys in reading ability. Boys are far more likely to perform poorly in core subjects such as math, reading and science. By age five, girls are 14% more likely to be ready to attend school. Perhaps people’s low expectation of boys influences their school performance, but boys’ brains develop more slowly than girls’ brains, especially during the time when they are in secondary education. Immature adolescent boys’ brains seek short-term pleasures and rewards and struggle with impulse control.
The gender gap becomes more pronounced in higher...
Senior Fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution and director of the Future of the Middle Class Initiative, Richard V. Reeves is the author of four books, including Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What to Do About It.