Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Boy’s Day at Home and at School

The gender gap in higher education has been growing since 1981 when females surpassed males in college enrollment and bachelor degree awards. For a while we looked at higher education as somehow flawed in serving boys. There is some evidence from the National Survey of Student Engagement that this is true. But with more data and reflection, most of us came to realize that many more boys than girls were getting off the education train before they reached college age. So as higher education is prone to do, we pointed the accusatory finger at K-12 education and blamed them.

Now comes a report from the Census Bureau A Child’s Day: 2006 based on data collected in the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP). This report is the fourth in a series examining children’s well-being and their daily activities at home and at school. This report offers useful and disturbing data on boys and girls that sheds light on how far off the education path many boys are from an early age. It is not just school where boys are disengaging—this report provides evidence of problems in home life too.

The SIPP data are collected from the “designated parent” which in 2-parent families is the mother. About 95% of the SIPP respondents were female, so these are largely maternal responses.

For their children ages 6 to 17 years, the mothers reported that:
• 60.8% of their boys often liked school, compared to 73.8% of their girls
• 52.9% of their boys were often interested in school work, compared to 68.7% of their girls
• 57.6% of their boys often worked hard in school, compared to 71.9% of their girls

Despite these notably poor indicators of student engagement in K-12 education, their mothers wanted :
• 88.6% of their sons to become at least college graduates, compared to 91.1% of their daughters
These mothers expected:
• 82.3% of their sons to become at least college graduates, compared to 86.2% of their daughters

This report of the study provides data that describe similarities in the lives of boys and girls at home. Among the similarities in the lives of boys and girls:
• Boys and girls were nearly equally likely to have been in non-relative child care, and to have spent nearly equal numbers of hours per week in non-relative child care.
• Boys and girls were nearly equally likely to have had breakfast with the designated parent during a typical week. Results were similar for regular weekday dinners.
• Boys and girls had similar types of and applications of television rules at home. (These rules included types of programs children could watch, time of day and number of hours.)
• Boys and girls had similar numbers of family outings together.

But there are differences too, and these differences provide interesting clues into the more grossly apparent enrollment and engagement problems that emerge when school enrollment is no longer compulsory and becomes voluntary and expensive. For examples:
• Mothers reported that they talked to or played with their child for 5 minutes or mjkore just for fun 3 or more times per day less often as their children aged, and this drop-off occurred faster with their sons than they daughters. Among children under 6 this gap was 0.9% in favor of girls. By 6 to 11 years it was 2.3%. By 12 to 17 years it was 4.8 percent.
• Maternal praise also declined as the child aged, and the decline was greater for their sons than their daughters. Among their children under 6, the gap was 1.3% in favor of the girls. By 6 to 11 years the gap was 2.0%, and by 12 to 17 it was 4.6%.
• Mothers reported that their sons were more likely to participate in sports than were their daughters, and that these differences increased with age.
• Mothers reported that their daughters were more likely to participate in clubs and than their sons were, and these differences also increased with age.
• Mothers reported that their daughters were more likely to be enrolled in gifted classes (26.6%) than their sons (22.9%), sons were more likely to have repeated a grade (12.9%) than were their daughters (8.0%), and that their sons were far more likely to have been suspended (13.8%) than their daughters (7.1%).

The published data from the SIPP provide interesting and useful insights from mothers’ perspectives about what is happening in the lives of their sons and daughters at home, at school and in communities. This published report invites further probing into the existing file for interactions by parental gender (there is some male parental data), race/ethnicity, marital status, educational attainment and employment status. But what is glaring deficient in this study is responses from fathers. God made men and women to have children, and this survey lets fathers off the hook.