Larry Summers Vindicated? Global Study Shows Greater Male Variability in Math, Reading Scores

Mark Perry:

The tables above show selected statistics from the paper Global Sex Differences in Test Score Variability (see summary here), published by two economists, one from the London School of Economics and the other from the Helsinki School of Economics. Analyzing standardized test scores in reading and mathematics from the OECD’s “Program for International Student Assessment” (PISA), a survey of 15-year olds in 41 industrialized countries, the authors found that:
Our analysis of international test score data shows a higher variance in boys’ than girls’ results on mathematics and reading tests in most OECD countries. Higher variability among boys is a salient feature of reading and mathematics test performance across the world. In almost all comparisons, the age 15 boy-girl variance difference in test scores is present. This difference in variance is higher in countries that have higher levels of test score performance.

2 thoughts on “Larry Summers Vindicated? Global Study Shows Greater Male Variability in Math, Reading Scores”

  1. The results are meaningful only in the most narrow sense — that there is a difference at the age 15. It says little about how these same persons would score, say at 25 on either reading or math. And these tests do not measure every aspect that is important in the areas of reading or math.
    There are still cultural and natural differences in responsibilities that exist that can and do either narrow or exacerbate such differences, and other differences not measured or measurable by these or other tests.
    For example, females in most cultures do the weaving, quilting, etc., with their intricate mix of designs and colors. This is highly mathematical, and it would be no surprise then, that females might score higher than males if tested in these areas of math.
    And, males, at 15, score significantly lower in reading — but males make up the vast majority of writers. Do I have to argue reading and writing abilities are connected? That being the case, such scores on the PISA test don’t seem particularly important.
    Result? Tests measure only what they measure, and only those areas of intellectual capabilities that fit within the narrow confines of the test protocols — nothing more.
    A more interesting question might ask who is the most clueless, male or female, in drawing unsubstantiated conclusions based in inadequate data and understanding?

  2. This blog is simply a rehash of a 2-page Education Forum article published last November in Science magazine. The conclusions drawn from the data are totally wrong. Janet Hyde and I have already written a response to the November article within an article recently published in the June 2nd issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a highly prestigous journal in which articles are carefully reviewed prior to acceptance for publication. We show that greater male variability in math performance is NOT ubiquitous. Thus, it can’t be due to innate biological differences between the sexes. Rather, we go on to show that girls excelling in math at the 95th percentile and 1-in-a-million math olympiad levels strongly correlates with their nations’ measures of gender equity. Noteworthy is that the US only ranks 31st best, between Estonia and Kazakhstan, out of 128 nations for which economists have determined their gender gap index. Hundreds of stories about my article have appeared this month in newspapers and online blogs throughout the world in at least a dozen languages. For example, see:
    For nice 2-minute video featuring two phenomenonally mathematically gifted Madison Memorial HS girls see:

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