Monday, June 11, 2007

The Gender Knowledge Gap

Men know more than women. That's a fairly universal finding in tests of political knowledge, a gender gap most scholars prefer to leave undiscussed.

There are a lot of potential explanations for the gender gap in what people know about public affairs. A study that attempts to answer at least some of the reasons for the gap makes for interesting reading. To quote the authors, "the gender disparity on political knowledge is large, and the gap persists in multivariate analyses." Translation: even if you statistically control for lots of other stuff like education, it's still there.

Okay, but why?

Rather than delve into the sociological waters of how boys and girls are raised and trained and brought into political life, the authors instead look at something more simple -- measurement.
Men are more reluctant to say they don't know when asked a survey question. Pluck out the "don't knows" and half of the gender knowledge gap disappears. Poof. Gone. And because men will try and answer you get a "guessing effect" in the results. There's a lot more here in the study, so check it out yourself.

Basically, we men don't ask directions and we don't say we "don't know" if asked a knowledge question on a survey. In both cases, we're willing to guess.

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