Sex differences in the right tail of cognitive abilities: A 30year examination


Journal Article

One factor in the debate surrounding the underrepresentation of women in science technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) involves male-female mathematical ability differences in the extreme right tail (top 1% in ability). The present study provides male-female ability ratios from over 1.6. million 7th grade students in the right tail (top 5% in ability) across 30. years (1981-2010) using multiple measures of math, verbal, and writing ability and science reasoning from the SAT and ACT. Male-female ratios in mathematical reasoning are substantially lower than 30. years ago, but have been stable over the last 20. years and still favor males. Over the last two decades males showed a stable or slightly increasing advantage in science reasoning. However, more females scored in the extreme right tail of verbal reasoning and writing ability tests. The potential role of sociocultural factors on changes in the male-female ability ratios is discussed and the introduction of science reasoning as a potential new factor in the debate is proposed. The implications of continued sex differences in math and science reasoning is discussed within the context of the many important interlocking factors surrounding the debate on the underrepresentation of women in STEM. © 2010 Elsevier Inc.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Wai, J; Cacchio, M; Putallaz, M; Makel, MC

Published Date

  • July 1, 2010

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 38 / 4

Start / End Page

  • 412 - 423

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0160-2896

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.intell.2010.04.006

Citation Source

  • Scopus