Friday, October 21, 2005
Men and women have, on average, similar IQs, which is as good a proxy as we have so far for scholastic aptitude. But the percentage of men in college continues to drop, to only 43% today, and there's no reason to think it will stop dropping. Why?
A variety of cultural reasons have been offered, and I think they all have some merit. Secondary education, some have argued, has been feminized, made less appealing to boys. Others have argued that, regardless of whether pedagogy has changed, adolescent boys are particularly sensitive about their masculinity, and female academic achievement thus in and of itself causes some boys to incline away from academic achievement.
But I suspect that inherent differences have at least some impact on the disparity, in two ways, one which is not easily addressed and the other which I think is readily addressable.
The less-easily addressed inherent difference: while men and women appear to have similar average IQs, the male IQ distribution has a wider standard deviation. Put simply: there are more male than female geniuses, but also more male than female idiots.
If colleges accepted only a small elite, you would expect this elite to be disproportionately male because there are more men way out on the right end of the curve than there are women. But today, when something like 50% of Americans have at least some college education, you'd expect the ratio to skew modestly the other way, as there are more women than men bulking up the middle of the curve.
I don't think there's much to do about this effect. But I also don't think it's dominant. What I think is probably more significant is the difference in average age of maturity - intellectual and emotional - between men and women. The physical differences between boys and girls in early adolescence are obvious. But there are important emotional and intellectual differences as well. I think it's highly likely that girls get a leg up in high school in part because they are already more mature, intellectually and emotionally, than boys are at the same age, and this advantage translates into greater representation in colleges.
If this is part of what's going on, the obvious solution is for boys to go to college - or maybe high school - a couple of years later than girls. The gap could be filled in any number of ways depending on when the extra years are inserted. I suspect that a modest age gap between college men and women would have a positive impact on the social, educational and sexual atmosphere on campus. And the guys would be able to catch up with the gals in terms of lifetime earning power when their wives take a few years off to have kids.
(I suppose I've cast myself into the outer darkness by posting on this topic. So let me say what Steve Sailer always says by way of caveat: average differences tell you next to nothing about the differences between specific individuals. In the average married couple the man is a couple of years older than the woman. I'm married to a woman 12 years my senior. There you go.)