The Frontal Cortex

Girls Are Better Behaved

Two economists have studied the effects “of classroom gender composition on scholastic achievements of boys and girls in Israeli primary, middle, and high schools.” They wanted to know if having a disproportionate number of one gender in the classroom influences academic performance. Their conclusion? Your son will be a better student if he attends an all-girl school:

Our results suggest that an increase in the proportion of girls leads to a significant improvement in students’ cognitive outcomes. The estimated effects are of similar magnitude for boys and girls. As important mechanisms, we find that a higher proportion of female peers lowers the level of classroom disruption and violence, improves inter-student and student-teacher relationships as well as students’ overall satisfaction in school, and lessens teachers’ fatigue.

The evolutionary psychologist in me wonders if having a higher girl-to-boy ratio in the classroom means that boys are less likely to compete for the attention of girls, which would translate into fewer fights and other disruptive behaviors. When I think back on my own misdeeds in middle school and high school, most of them seemed related to the ruthless competition for the favor of females. Adolescent courtship rituals are definitely bad for academic achievement.

Hat Tip: Tyler Cowen


  1. #1 Brigit
    August 21, 2007

    During my middle school years (in a catholic school run by nuns) the nuns decided to split up the class by unruliness. Disaster soon ensued. We were previously split up into two classrooms rather randomly- although some teachers asked NOT to have some particular students in their “home-class”. The “good” class was mainly all the girls, except the bullies and such, and the “bad” class were most the boys, except the geeks. This only lasted a year because the “bad” group was totally wild, crazy, and simply uncontrollable, and the good group was boooooooring, really really boring. The boys would escape their classrooms run into ours and either hide between us, or run to the door-scream- and them return to their classroom. We even got kicked out of a religious retreat because we were to busy having fun to listen to the pastors. Next year, we were randomly split again.

  2. #2 Rose Colored Glasses
    August 21, 2007

    Hmm. After another hundred years of trying, we only confirm that if all children are treated like little girls, the boys will be seen as badly behaved.

    Girls more easily sit quietly when required. Boys have a harder time of it, and the difference seems to be hardwired.

    In classes where all students are expected to be active, the disparity between boys and girls vanishes.

    You might have noticed in college that nobody required college men to sit up straight with their feet flat on the floor and their knees together. Ever wonder why?

  3. #3 Mike Fox
    August 21, 2007

    I’ve noticed that classes of *all* boys tend to go back to being well behaved again. Perhaps there is something more sinister occurring here?

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