October 23, 2015

WAR ON BOYS: Why Are Boys Falling Behind?

The fact that men are overrepresented at the very highest echelons of American society—the U.S. Congress, Fortune 500 executive suites, faculty lounges at major universities—often obscures the fact that boys at the middle and bottom of the economic ladder are falling further and further behind girls in educational attainment. In recent years, however, a growing number of scholars and commentators have started to pay attention to the particular challenges facing boys. Hannah Rosin, for example, has speculated that girls are inherently better suited to the types of skills required in a post-industrial society, and Christina Hoff Sommers has highlighted the ways the K-12 education system fails to cater to boys’ interests and needs.

An important new study from leading economists, led by MIT’s David Autor, has added a new dimension to this discussion: the way that changes in family structure—in particular, the rise of fatherlessness homes—has done particular damage to boys’ prospects. . . .

The finding that inequality and social decay hit boys hardest poses challenges to policymakers on both sides of the aisle—to thinkers on the right who downplay the obstacles that poverty poses to mobility, and to thinkers on the left who ignore the importance of family structure and assert that the genders are essentially interchangeable.

That’s nicely evenhanded, but which group has had more influence on social and educational policy?

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