23 Comments
Jan 13, 2023Liked by K. Liam Smith

It's a bit different here in Australia.

I only have (very!) incomplete data but it shows (suggests?) a big fast shift from approximate equality to a large difference in results between girls & boys. I have a graph for one state & I have seen data for another but lost it. In both cases the shift coincided with moving from exams set & marked externally to marks being given by one's teacher. However this is ancient history now - 1970s in one case & 1990s in another.

I understand something similar occured in the UK: http://empathygap.uk/?p=3810

In more recent times (since 2008) the proportion of boys failing to achieve minimum standards has continued to get worse compared to girls. (Australia's education system is in a bit of a mess. Standards for both boys & girls decline but more so for boys.)

Similarly entry to Tertiary education.

The number of boys being punished, suspended and expelled are also grounds for concern here.

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“In both cases the shift coincided with moving from exams set & marked externally to marks being given by one's teacher.” - Yeah, something that isn’t being brought up is that if you look at the top 10% of math and reading standardized scorers, they are both disproportionately male (including reading). But on GPA, it’s flipped. I’ve seen some rather large studies with tens of thousands of subjects that show grading discrimination, which could explain the discrepancy. However, I didn’t see evidence that this discrimination is getting worse, and since the GPA gap has been stagnant I think it’s safe to say that it is not getting worse. So I don't think it would correlate with the decline in men entering college.

But one way to test if it is getting worse might be to break up the test scores and GPA into buckets (maybe deciles) and look at the divergence between the gender ratio of each one. If you had historical data on this then you could see if there's a divergence and see if this discrimination is getting worse or better over time.

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May 24, 2023Liked by K. Liam Smith

Another simple explanation is that men/boys are possessing more intellectual mastery on the higher end, so they score better, but that the highest end of contentiousness (which is what leads to good grades) is dominated by girls.

It doesn't have to be discrimination per se. Just that test scores and grades are measuring different things (mastery versus contentiousness/conformity).

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Agreed. There are a number of studies that show that when students are graded by someone who doesn't know who they are, the boys' grades go up. But they found that the boys whose grades go up tend to be troublemakers (ie not conscientious). So the hypothesis is that teachers are using grades as a punishment. You could call this either grading discrimination in terms of their intellectual achievement or accurate grading in terms of the boys' conscientiousness.

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A) I feel like I'm coming in half way through a movie, this is the first article of yours I've read :)

B) I somewhat understand the purpose of comparing men and women using the standard deviation, and I like the illustrative use of the blue/green group and asking which group is 0.8 inches taller, but I'm still not sure why it *doesn't* matter that women are 0.8 Anecdotal Inches taller.

C) Is it possible that women are very lightly (1/3 Standard Deviation) ahead of men in important aspects of "being good at school" and that this has a large effect on the college aspirations in your algorithm? If that's the case, in my mind it discounts your argument that boys and girls are neck-and-neck by some percentage. I think it matters if there is a 1% difference at T=0 and a 30% difference at T=10. The importance of T=1 to 9.

C) You are acknowledging a higher graduation rate in women (70:100, men-to-women) and I think that tells a significant, explanation-generating story for why society is weirdly skewed. To me, this is the 30% effect at T=10

D) I think that things which we do/should care about are invisible to these chosen metrics. For example, the broke English major trope or the gender studies/masters of education working at Starbucks kind of highlights that graduation rates don't really mean anything to prosperity. I know a decent number of people with a lot of useless masters and PhDs working $50-60k/year jobs, and most of the people I know making >$100k don't have masters degrees (My group is probably a statistical anomaly).

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In regards to that 0.8 difference, I think it does matter to a small extent, but it is often blown out of proportion. Also, when understanding college enrollment, it’s really only kids in the top half who typically go, so the average is less important than the extremes of the distribution. On standardized tests, in the top deciles, boys are ahead in both math and reading. Even though the boys are behind on average.

I think the main point about that 0.8 gap isn’t that it doesn’t matter at all, but that it isn’t changing. If it’s constant, then it’s not what driving the changing enrollment. I saw a chart of SAT math scores going back to 1965. And the gap between boys and girls has not changed in 60 years. So the relative learning outcomes of boys/girls is not changing. But clearly something else is changing.

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Thanks for that response. I think my feeling while reading was that it's fine to argue about the small details, but the larger picture seems to be the skewed gender grad rate.

Does this mean more women are farther in debt than men by comparison? (separate from debate over whether the debt is justified based on increased earning potential or lack thereof depending on their perspective on the benefits of non-STEM degrees)

Are men really falling behind women or are they *not* even while grad rates for women are higher, and does that mean a degree is less useful? My personal bias is that we mislead a generation of kids that they would be rich if they went to college and then we turned college in to degree mills, so there's less value in a degree.

However, it is interesting to me that even with anec-data of over-prescribing meds to boys and the general *vibe* that boys are failing horribly in school you're not seeing that in the data presented.

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Oh, and yeah, there is the complication that some degrees just aren’t really worth the money. In the US that makes it a more complicated issue, because you could say that maybe young men are responding rationally to the market by not sinking themselves into debt. But in other countries where college is free there is a similar issue.

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May 26, 2023·edited May 26, 2023Author

Women have about 2/3 of student debt in the US.

> Are men really falling behind women or are they *not* even while grad rates for women are higher, and does that mean a degree is less useful?

The overall trend is that 1 in 3 young men are largely alienated from about every aspect of our society: work, school, relationships. Young men in their twenties have a labor force participation rate comparable to the Great Depression. College campuses look like we just fought a world war. Young women in their twenties have increasingly started dating older men who do have degrees. About 2/3 of young women are in relationships, only 1 in 3 young men are. If you look at black men who were 18 years old in 2017, as of today, about one half are currently unemployed, incarcerated, or dead. For working class white men, it’s about 1 in 3. What’s happening is absolutely historic in scale and magnitude.

I think this is largely unrelated to intellectual learning in the classroom, but a much broader problem.

Yeah, I’ve heard a proposal that rather than give boys a ton of amphetamines, how about just give them more recess to run off their energy. Which seems like a healthier option to me.

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ya, that's even a more troubling picture than I thought. Reading the original article, I thought you were arguing against this position :)

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In terms of what I write about, I ask myself what will historians a hundred years from now focus on when they write about our current decade? At the moment, a lot of people have incredibly strong feelings about the transgender debate. But the arc of human history will not be bent by who takes a shit in the women’s bathroom. A century from now historians just won’t care. I think they’ll focus on three big trends. In terms of geopolitics it’ll be the great power competition between the US/China/Russia. Economically, it’ll be the fact that we’re going through a major Industrial Revolution with AI. And culturally, I think it’ll be what’s going on with boys and young men. That third one is the one that is the most contentious. I’ve got a couple pieces coming out on that in the next couple weeks if you’re interested.

Within those three things I’m writing on what I happen to be knowledgeable on. I’m not a geopolitics expert, but I can definitely give above average information on how AI might be used for cyber warfare between the US and China. And when it comes to cultural things everyone is so ideologically driven I just try to give a more data-driven take.

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The problem with drilling down on data in the way Reeves has (apart from misinterpretation) is you miss the over arching principles that are unspoken in the book and from his view on the world.

Reeves uses the only metric available in terms of performance being better amongst women which is in school grades. Girls and women have been out performing boys and men academically for a long time - yet it is only through popular movements and legislation that any progress on women’s equality in the workplace has occurred - both in terms of general equality and income equality. Good grades do not necessarily equal better pay and better jobs if you belong to a minority group, or if you are a woman. Imagine stating that the reason that you are concerned about white equality is due to the huge moves made to provide equality in schools between white and black students - now black students are out performing white students, and that you are concerned that soon a higher proportion of teachers will be black? !! This is a fictional situation of course because we do not have equality in the quality of schooling and outcomes between white and black students yet.

My concern is with the diagnosis of this symptom. Reeves mentioned in his book that the two mostly used words in suicide notes are “useless” and “worthless”.

Huge financial inequality, class inequality, wealth distribution, the growth of the social media manosphere, toxic masculinity espoused by the successful “alpha” male podcastor, and a constellation of other contributing factors are clearly at play. The economic crisis that began in 2008 and has put huge pressure on financial providers in families would be my best guess. Runaway capitalism.

The issue here and that is implied in the short interview is “yes women have more rights now, and look, they are even out performing men in academia, but this is going too far, men now have these problems that were not around before”. That was certainly the impression that is given.

I would need much more empirical evidence for this assumption! For example - how accurate is the data from 1900 - 1960 on male suicide? In an industrial period whereby men had the most awful jobs to do with no health and safety and death whilst at work or from being at work was much more commonplace? A more in depth analysis of the trends in suicide over the course of the last 20 years might be insightful. None is offered.

His main solution to the educational inequality was to start boys a year later than girls at school, wrestling back one of the only advantages women have. The side effects of which will be an extra year of childcare costs and juggling childcare for families already under strain from the cost of living crisis, huge mortgages, and men still living under a patriarchal culture which tells them they need to earn more to pay for it.

Ironically it is a clear sign that the pendulum has not swung nearly far enough in favour of women when upon discovering a major issue within the male half of our species that is causing mental health issues and suicide - that women are essentially implied as an indirect cause. We must remember that this is against the backdrop of a clear patriarchal system where men run the home, the country, the company, the corporation, the domain of sports, the domain of geopolitics, science and technology, etc etc. We can empirically prove that men have for millenia essentially enslaved women and that women are for the first time rising out of that oppression to gain equality in perhaps the most peaceful uprising ever in the history of humankind.

And Reeves is worried that boys will not see any male teachers at school and this is the cause of the malaise in men.

Quite astonishing.

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Very good point. I blab a lot about the trans issue because it feels like some of the dumbest things are happening there but I think you're right. I feel like MRA/red pill type people had their moment and now the culture has moved on from insulting them to arguing about trans stuff.

Given that framing, your post makes a lot more sense.

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Jan 12, 2023Liked by K. Liam Smith

I find the first graph interesting, particularly what seems to be a rather sudden increase in the number of men relative to women born in the 1920s who graduated from college. It's not driven by a decrease in female graduation, it's driven by an increase in male graduation. So why would those men suddenly be attending college? Those would have been the men who would be roughly 18 to 26 during WWII, the aftermath of which saw the GI Bill. How much did that have to do with what looks like the point at which the large gap between men and women started? And is that when it started? It's hard to tell since no data is provided before 1910.

Also on the same note, the gap between men and women begins to close right around after the time when the men who would have been 18 to 26 during the Vietnam War were being born. That was the last war in which there was a draft of 18 to 26 year old men. Of course, I'm sure that suddenly having a severely reduced male population significantly reduces the rate of male college graduation, but perhaps that is entirely offset by the GI Bill.

Wouldn't it be ironic if the disparity in college attendance between men and women from 40s to the 80s which has been so often cited as proof of unfair treatment of women was actually largely driven by male only conscription into war?

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The US Census data I found only listed for people born after 1910, but I actually found a source that goes back to the 1870's. I plan on looking into it more to verify if it's correct or not. If so, I'll be posting an updated chart that goes all the way back.

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How would you predict the other variables in the function? The “economically capable” and “college aspiration”. If the learning gaps aren’t changing then that means the other two variables have changed a ton.

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I think there is a real delta between male and female college preparedness that is a function of cognitive ability and conscientiousness/other non-cognitive personal traits. Reeeves' book points out. He argues the deficit in male enrollment is at root academic capacity but more a slower developmental course to socially selectedevels of self-discipline and compliance. Hence the whole "red shirt boys" call.

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> I think there is a real delta between male and female college preparedness that is a function of cognitive ability and conscientiousness/other non-cognitive personal traits. Reeeves' book points out.

Thanks for commenting. Yes, you correctly articulated his argument. From a broader perspective, this is why I’m a fan of Bayesian inferential statistics, rather than frequentist approaches.

Reeves argues that there is a biological gap in age of development (there's substantial evidence to support this), and as you put it, then college preparedness is a function of that gap, and then college enrollment is a function of that preparedness. Predicting the changing enrollment requires you to articulate not this difference, but the *difference of the difference.* If this biological delta is constant then Reeves is arguing that a changing output variable (college enrollment gender gap) is somehow a function of a constant input variable. If this biological delta is not constant and is growing, then that’s very interesting and I’d like to know why. Reeves currently still claims that this changing output variable is a function of a static input variable: “There’s a big gender gap in terms of GPA.” As I pointed out above, the GPA gap is not that large, but more importantly, it’s static.

I did a more in-depth forecasting project on predicting the gender gap in enrollment, apparently the first in the world, if you’re curious about the topic. [https://taboo.substack.com/p/forecasting-college-enrollment]. I’ll be doing a followup later in the year on it as well.

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Apr 2·edited Apr 2

I'm not sure we have Reeves' argument down quite right here. I believe Reeves' argument is that over the 20th century we removed barriers to educational attainment for women. This quickly led to women outcompeting men in college enrollment because of the known (though sometimes controversial) neuro/psych advantages they enjoy in a typical school setting. We can see this advantage in data from primary and secondary schools well prior to the switch in enrollment as female access to primary and secondary education preceded post-secondary access (mostly grades data, which I also believe is in the book if memory serves).

The bio differences are quite steady. It is the institutional order and selection mechanisms that are different. The flip-side of this is the lower admission standards males now enjoy at liberal arts colleges, which are eager not to tip below the 40% threshold. (https://www.nytimes.com/2023/09/08/magazine/men-college-enrollment.html#:~:text=But%20the%20easiest%20way%20for%20many%20competitive,seeking%20higher%20degrees%20started%20soaring%20in%20the)

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Thanks for bringing this up, it’s important to make sure we can pass an Ideological Turing Test for his position. This might be easier if you took a look at the forecasting project. Remember that I’m coming at this from a very different perspective than Reeves. He’s an activist trying to make the world better, and that’s great. But that’s not my goal. I used to be one of the top competitive data scientists in the world and my goal is forecast things. Reeves makes numerous factual and statistical errors that you just can’t get away with if your goal is predicting things. That’s not to criticize him, he seems like a caring father who wants to help people and is speaking out about an issue that should get far more attention.

> I'm not sure we have Reeves' argument down quite right here. I believe Reeves' argument is that over the 20th century we removed barriers to educational attainment for women. This quickly led to women outcompeting men in college enrollment because of the known (though sometimes controversial) neuro/psych advantages they enjoy in a typical school setting.

I think we’re in agreement on Reeve’s thesis. He’s been very clear about that. But this is where Reeves’ ideology comes into play. Let’s start with this:

> This [removing barriers + neuro/psych advantages] quickly led to women outcompeting men in college enrollment

Reeves argument is that input A [removing barriers + neuro/psych advantages] led to outcome B [outcompeting men in college enrollment]. But outcome B appears to be (partially) a non-falsifiable ideological belief.

I modeled enrollment as a Markov chain where I broke it down into (application -> admit -> yield) with the gender ratio at each stage. I picked the UC system because they provided all the data for that. Colleges removing test scores as a criteria has ended up lowering male admission rates. The top 20% - 30% of SAT scorers are majority male, and this accounts for most of the population attending college. If admissions were gender blind, we should expect majority male acceptance rate, but we see the opposite.

> The flip-side of this is the lower admission standards males enjoy at liberal arts colleges, which are eager not to tip below the 40% threshold.

That article is paywalled, so I might be missing something, but I’ve heard that claim referenced elsewhere in interviews. Is there any quantitative evidence in that article? I’m not able to read it. So far these claims I’ve seen seem to be based on hearsay, but I’m open to changing my mind given evidence (which again, might be in that article). The quantitative evidence I’ve found indicates otherwise. However, that’s based on data from the UC system, which might not be representative of liberal arts colleges. I should mention that liberal arts colleges are already below the 40% threshold, which makes me suspicious of these claims.

When it comes to input A [removing barriers] the quantitative evidence is also not terribly supportive of Reeve’s case, but this comment has gotten very long already. Anyway, there’s a lot of ideological assumptions. One way to be clear about these ideological assumptions is to mathematically model the problem. That’s why I’ve proposed predictive modeling. I think the real cause here is unfortunately quite politically controversial and it makes it challenging for Reeves to bring it up.

Thank you for bringing up these points, it’ll help me out when I do my next write up on this.

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I agree that trying to model the problem is good and I'm sure there's more room for rigor in the analysis.

A thorough analysis will be tough because it seems like the available data are patchy. I would be concerned, for instance, that the UC system is not particularly representative because of the state-specific laws in California (prop 209) and the unique competitiveness of the state system (and to a lesser extent the different demographics of applicants).

There is some data points on the lower admit standards for males in the article but no systematic analysis is presented. Here's an example quote: "At the University of Georgia, admissions officers automatically gave male candidates an additional 0.25 points (out of a possible score of 8.15). In doing so, the school managed to maintain a ratio of 45 percent men to 55 percent women." There are various data points from institutions cited and a 2010 analysis of D3 athlete admits from 84 schools showing lower standards for male recruits and that male athletes are often significant proportions of the male enrollment. There are some statements that concede to the practice of favoring male applicants from former administrators and apparently a lawsuit was in the works (Title IX based), but they couldn't pool enough admissions data to do the necessary legwork.

What's your inkling on the real cause?

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Coming in late here - one factor to consider is that a lot of the gender gap is driven by boys from the low end of the socioeconomic spectrum, typically from fatherless homes & communities. I'd be curious what the gap looks like for boys vs girls from intact families and the top two thirds of the socioeconomic spectrum. I suspect that also explains why women have more average college debt - students from the lower end of society are a. more likely to need loans and b. largely women.

Also worth noting that if you're a middle or upper class man, it's not necessarily in your interest to fix this gap. You & your sons are likely to do ok and helping less fortunate boys just means more future competition for jobs & women. In addition, you're not likely to see that achievement gap in your own part of the world. This is particularly true at the top - for Ivy League grads, the gender gap in pay is larger than for the general public.

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So, did you and Richard ever get together?

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