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March 13, 2013

Are Men/Boys Really Doing "Worse" Over Time?

Because no one measure can tell us the entire story, let's look at several measures of academic achievement.

Exhibit I: a higher percentage of young men are completing college now than in the 1960s:

college_attainmentrates.png

CWCID.


Exhibit II: In absolute numbers, more young men are completing college too:


men_college.png


Exhibit III: The % of boys dropping out of HS has gone down over time by almost 50%:


dropouts.png


Exhibit IV: Over time, average boys' grades have increased, too:


gpa_overtime.gif


Exhibit V: Boys' Math SAT scores over time have increased:

SAT scores.png

After work, I'll get you the verbal scores. They're more difficult, but I can tell you that both boys and girls are doing worse over time and the rates of decline are pretty much parallel.


Posted by Cassandra at March 13, 2013 07:51 AM

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Re Exhibit III
Dropout rates go down under poor economic conditions. As jobs disappear dropouts reappear at school or students decide not leave in the first place. The dropouts graph shows a precipitous decline starting just before 2000 – one of the indicators of the 2001 recession. That it continues to fall is more an indicator of economic depression than having attended to a dropout problem.

“Historically, there has been a correlation between the dropout rate going down when the economy is weaker.”
Jack Buckley, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics (from an article date of January 22, 2013)

Posted by: George Pal at March 13, 2013 12:52 PM

WHAT? How DARE you let your facts dispute my anecdotes! You're causing emotional trauma over here! :P

Posted by: MikeD at March 13, 2013 12:57 PM

One more time, George - this long-term downward trend spans over 40 years.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 13, 2013 12:57 PM

You're causing emotional trauma over here!

We womynfolk are mean that way, Mike :p

Posted by: Cassandra, Mean Girl at March 13, 2013 12:58 PM

this long-term downward trend spans over 40 years

Well, that, and if I'm eyeballing the dates here correctly, drop out rates for males went *up* in the recession years 82, 91, 01, 09. Maybe there's a lag effect (as the "last" recession officially ended in 2009 though it seems we have neglected to inform the recession of this).

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at March 13, 2013 01:25 PM

... if I'm eyeballing the dates here correctly, drop out rates for males went *up* in the recession years 82, 91, 01, 09. Maybe there's a lag effect (as the "last" recession officially ended in 2009 though it seems we have neglected to inform the recession of this).

I started to say something along those lines, but I had only a moment in between conference calls and didn't trust myself not to make a mistake if I rushed it :p

Doing the research I've been doing over the last few weeks has been fascinating. There's a lot of "motivated reasoning" (as in, "I want to prove this, so I'll cherry pick the data or even transform it so as to make it appear that the data supports my conclusion"). A perfect example of this is conservatives who cite the gender gap in SAT math scores, but never verbal ones.

We're all - myself included - prone to doing that. We don't want to be wrong, and we don't like doubting our own righteousness.

We decide what we believe/think, then go out looking for evidence that "proves us right". But it's also important (and I've learned the most amazing things by doing this) to try to prove yourself wrong (i.e., go looking for evidence that actually undermines your hypothesis and evaluate that, too.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 13, 2013 02:00 PM

"this long-term downward trend spans over 40 years.

Oh come now, 20 years not 40; and for, at least, the last twenty years the economy has shown no real growth. Economic growth over the last twenty years is the result of unfathomable debt stimulus to keep consumers consuming.

And the gender graph spike was for 1999. The plummet from 30 to 15 percent and 15 to 8.5 percent tracks precisely with the economic depression. The end of the recession is as much creative chimera as the solvency of the banks, the honesty of the banksters, and the fiduciary responsibility of Fannie Mae. First QE1 then QE2 then perpetual QE. Wager that the well won't run dry.

Posted by: George Pal at March 13, 2013 02:13 PM

Call the trauma unit.

Re Exhibit IV
Clearly the result of fifty years of grade inflation and coursework deflation. Barack 'The Baraka' Obama's Harvard J.D. Magna Cum Laude should suffice as evidence.

Posted by: George Pal at March 13, 2013 02:21 PM

Oh come now, 20 years not 40;

Ummm. I'm pretty sure 1970 - 2010 is 40 years. And 1970 - 1990 (excluding your period where you claim no "real" growth) male drop-out rates fell from ~14% to ~12%.

Though I'm at a loss for how a student on the border of dropping out is smart enough to tell the difference between "real" growth and "debt fueled" growth and know to stay in school.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at March 13, 2013 02:25 PM

I'm pretty sure dropouts peaked in 1990.

"Though I'm at a loss for how a student on the border of dropping out is smart enough to tell the difference between "real" growth and "debt fueled" growth and know to stay in school. "

That's clever but not as clever as the potential dropout who finds a job or doesn't before he becomes a dropout.

Posted by: George Pal at March 13, 2013 02:49 PM

I just ran a regression fit through the raw data and there's no question that there's a strong downward trend over time.

You can see this plainly by Eyeball Inspection, but the curve fit confirms it. The long term trend, George, is unequivocal.

You can choose to ignore that and instead focus on short term fluctuations in the data, but that's missing the forest for the trees. It doesn't change the fact that the dropout rate is MUCH lower now than it was in 40 years ago. If you go back farther to the 60s, it's even more dramatic.

That's not good for your "boys are worse off now" case.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 13, 2013 02:50 PM

And I'm not sure why you think Obama is an idiot. He is clearly a very intelligent person.

He just has very different goals.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at March 13, 2013 02:51 PM

I'm pretty sure dropouts peaked in 1990.

I included that peak.

That's clever but not as clever as the potential dropout who finds a job or doesn't before he becomes a dropout.

That's a question of whether the jobs are available or not. Not whether the available jobs are due to "real" growth or "debt fueled" growth.

There are arguably *more* jobs available during "debt fueled" growth than "real" growth.

Thus drop out rates should have gone up as there were plentiful job opportunities. But they didn't.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at March 13, 2013 03:00 PM

Oh, and I'm gonna hafta call shenanigans on "coursework deflation". My nephews are taking courses, now, as Juniors, that I didn't take until I was a Senior nearly 20 years ago.

And mostly weren't offered at all 50 years ago.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at March 13, 2013 03:04 PM

Cass,

I'm not considering short term fluctuations – it's a twenty year plummet with short term fluctuations.

YAG,

I didn't say he was an idiot. I said he didn't strike me as Harvard magna cum laude material. I don't know of anyone, who doesn't have a crush on him, who thinks he is.

You can make the argument for debt fueled jobs only so long. Continually increasing the debt at some point becomes a matter of churning the economy, i.e., no growth. Spiking the debt to remain at three percent growth is not growth - it's economic suicide.

Your nephews and your experience hardly make a case against coursework deflation. I assume a third of the public or state university student populations have available to them legitimate courses requiring work to master. I also assume the fifty percent of students who don't belong in college have their way greased for them. It's not likely universities are going to refuse their skim of a trillion dollar student loan kitty.

Posted by: George Pal at March 13, 2013 03:46 PM

I don't know of anyone, who doesn't have a crush on him, who thinks he is.

I hate his guts, and I certainly think he's magna cum laude material. He's just more interested in his ego than anything else.

You can make the argument for debt fueled jobs only so long.

I'm not making the argument for debt fueled jobs.

I'm making the argument that those on the border of dropping out are incapable of distinquishing between the two in their decision to take a job and drop out, or to pass on it and stay in school.

They neither know, nor care. See job, take job.

During the last 20 years of "debt fueled" growth, there were jobs. Period. Full Stop.

Why are these students who should be dropping out and taking these plentiful jobs not doing so?

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at March 13, 2013 04:21 PM

it's a twenty year plummet with short term fluctuations.

Let's simplify this, George:

1972 - 14.1

1992 - 11.3 (-2.8)

2010 - 8.5 (-2.8)

I'm not seeing your 20 year plummet. The best curve fit, and I was surprised at how good it was, doesn't show a plummet either.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 13, 2013 04:51 PM

5 o'clock musing:

My brain is completely fried from work. Thanks for being willing to discuss all of this, and I appreciate your patience with my mental distraction for the last few weeks.

We're in the final stages of a really huge project and things are a bit mad around here.

*cheers*, gentlemen! (tipping my glass of Chardonnay in your general direction)

Posted by: Cassandra at March 13, 2013 05:11 PM

Spline Fit:
'70-'74: Fall (4 years)
'74-'80: Rise (6 years)
'80-'93: Fall (14 years)
'93-'98: Rise (6 years)
'98-'10: Fall (13 years)

1) There is no 20 year span that falls as a trend.

2) You're also going to have a hard time convincing me that '80-'93 and '98-'10 were a combined 27 years of economic busts driving marginal students to stay in school rather than get jobs.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at March 13, 2013 05:21 PM

Egads woman! Thou art one of the most dyspetic Tech Wenches yet inflicted on the Intertubes.

Get thee to your laptop and make up some more statistics! Stat!

Or....whatever.

Our problems, I would say, is that most personal knowledge is anecdotal. How could anyone of us actually KNOW the academic antics of several hundred 17 -23 men and women in each of the last 20 years? 40 years. Hell, it's been almost 40 years since I gradiated from High School, and I mostly refuse to hang out with those kids any more.

We all know a few, but again, that is anecdotal. And even a well known local population can skew one way or another.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at March 13, 2013 06:16 PM

Draw an extended trendline from peak dropout rate males 1980 to lower peak 1998 to 2010. The line trends down. 14.1, 11.3, 8.5, is a declining dropout rate. From the graph, "Since the early 1970s the percentage of high school dropouts has declined by nearly 50 percent." Dropout rates go down under poor economic conditions.

"...those on the border of dropping out are incapable of distinquishing between the two in their decision to take a job and drop out"

They needn't make any distinctions, they need only to find out if they can get a job.

During the last 20 years of "debt fueled" growth, there were jobs. Period. Full Stop.
Why are these students who should be dropping out and taking these plentiful jobs not doing so?

What jobs are available for high school dropouts? Low paying jobs for which they would have to compete with –teens of millions of illegal immigrants.

Lost decade for jobs – Business Week

http://www.businessweek.com/stories/2009-06-22/a-lost-decade-for-jobs

Posted by: George Pal at March 13, 2013 06:36 PM

Egads woman! Thou art one of the most dyspetic Tech Wenches yet inflicted on the Intertubes. Get thee to your laptop and make up some more statistics! Stat!

OK, that made me laugh out loud, Don :)

I can't believe it's been 10 years since I first 'met' so many of you in the comments section at ScrappleFace. I was sitting at my desk in our home office the other day. It's a nice room - there's a fireplace and a bank of windows to look out of and the walls are lined with books. I happened to glance up and espied my personal copy of Axis of Weasels, so I pulled it down from the shelf and began looking over the familiar names and enjoying the hilarious memories.

Crazy times :) Scott Ott made it all look so effortless, but I think that was his great gift.

I can't believe how fortunate I've been to see so many of those old, familiar characters here at VC. I wish you all knew how important you've been to me over the years.

OK, I'm getting maudlin :p Must be the Celtic blood in me. "Back on my head", as someone I know used to say...

Posted by: Cassandra at March 13, 2013 06:38 PM

George:

To quote another beloved commenter, "You have the last word" :)

I have said pretty much all I can say on this issue, but more importantly I am lost in admiration of the shrimp etouffe I made for my brutish, patriarchal oppressor... err.... lawfully wedded husband after a long day filled with the cramming of distressful bread.

I hope he likes it! If you were here, I'd invite you to pull up a chair, pour you a glass of chilled white wine, and dig in. And I'd promise not to mention the dropout rate :p

Posted by: Cassandra at March 13, 2013 07:25 PM

A magnanimous invite made all the more gracious by being made to an obtuse pest.

Posted by: George Pal at March 14, 2013 06:56 AM

What jobs are available for high school dropouts? Low paying jobs for which they would have to compete with –teens of millions of illegal immigrants.

Bunk.

I worked those jobs the summers of '96, '97, '98 (Manual labor for home builder in Ohio, warehouse in Ohio, building maintenance in NC). All low paying jobs a high school drop out could do and not an illegal immigrant to be seen.

Whether the jobs were real growth or false, there were a lot of them available, even to the drop out class.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at March 14, 2013 08:55 AM

George, darlin' -

Being human (and female), I sometimes can't help becoming a tad bit distraught when uppity readers fail to appreciate my ineffable wisdom and utter rightness on all matters (even those I've written about from a position of deep and abiding ignorance) :)

From the frequency with which I write about the tension, sometimes bordering on open warfare, between men and women, you all can tell this subject is near and dear to my heart. And I do realize I can be tiresome/relentless on the topic.

There's a famous line from the Gospel of Luke that I'm often reminded of when reading some conservative jeremiad blaming everything from hemorroids to global warming on feminism:

... how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother's eye.

Men and women see the world differently. I think part of that is due to actual differences between the two halves of humanity. But I can testify from firsthand knowledge and experience that a good deal of it is ALSO due to different experiences.

I spent several decades as a stay at home mom and wife. I ran our home and my husband earned the money. When my sons entered HS, I went back to school and work, got my degree, and both our boys through college. That was always our plan - we married quite young and consequently, saving for college would have come at the expense of saving for retirement. I'm a "put the oxygen mask over your own face first" kinda gal - you can't help your children and grandchildren if you haven't even taken the forethought to ensure your own financial stability first.

My leaving home and entering the work force caused a pretty seismic shift in our marriage. Over the last 15 years, my husband has changed - a lot! And so have I (and they say you can't teach an old dog new tricks!). As he began to help more around the house, my husband slowly come to appreciate what life (and our marriage) looked like to me back then. He understands, because he has experienced these things firsthand how it feels when you go out of your way to do something thoughtful for someone you love, only to have them respond by being distant and preoccupied because they are worried about something, or just dog tired.

And I have slowly gained an appreciation for how life (and our marriage) has seemed to him, because I now know exactly how hard it can be at times to put aside all the heavy burdens he carries. Being patient and loving is not as easy as it was when I didn't share his burdens :)

The thing is, I didn't have to become a man to experience a taste of life as it seems to my husband, and he didn't have to become female to experience a taste of life as it has always seemed to me. These are situational tensions, and while I firmly believe that in most cases specialization (IOW, traditional gender roles) is more efficient when raising a family, I no longer believe that's the only way.

How could I, having seen my brother and his wife raise two absolutely delightful, bright, happy children with both of them pitching in as needed, whether it was earning money, cleaning the house, or teaching and mentoring their kids? They made it work, which lessened my conviction that my way is the "right" way.

The whole arc of my life leads me to the conclusion that things are rarely as simple or black and white as we want to make them. There were plenty of tensions during the "traditional" part of our marriage. Those were replaced with different tensions when I entered the workplace and we transitioned to a more "modern" division of labor/responsibility.

If anything, my respect and affection for my husband has deepened now that I have walked a few hundred miles in his shoes, and I think he'd probably tell you the reverse is true.

I bristle at the idea that there's only one way to do things - the old way - because my life has taught me that that isn't really true. Every choice we make in life has tradeoffs associated with it, and though I wouldn't change a moment of my time raising our boys, there were costs.

Often, conservative defenses of traditional gender roles come off as simplistic (ex: if we'd just go back to the way things used to be, all these modern problems would simply vanish into the ether). But they wouldn't - we'd just be dealing with other problems.

There's an argument to be made that one set of problems may be preferable to another, and I can respect that. But that's what we're really talking about here - exchanging one set of problems for another. I don't think it was good or right for women like my mother, who is so intellectually curious and intelligent (and from whom I inherited my love of ideas) to be told that college would be a waste because she was only going to get married.

And like you, I am worried about the current state of young men and women. I just disagree about the exact nature of the problem. Having raised two boys, I agree that they are less biddable than girls and more rebellious. I think the solution is for us to expect more from them (as the military does, and as I did of my own boys). They rose to meet my expectations, and the hardest lesson I learned as a mother whose husband was rarely there to be the hammer, was that boys require a firmer hand.

I think *that's* the problem here - that firm hand is gone. We can't hold anyone accountable, or damage their precious self esteem, or even imply they're not measuring up. And it's no longer just liberals who are doing this - conservatives are actively making excuses for dysfunctional and irresponsible behavior.

I thank you for being willing to debate with me, and don't expect you to agree. Being willing to discuss and offer your own perspective is all I ask. That, and what is hopefully a mutual belief that we both want the best for boys and for the society we live in, even if we disagree on the best means to that end.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 14, 2013 09:06 AM

YAG,

I trust you were not a dropout; I expect that in competition with a dropout you would have got the job. I assume dropouts have to compete for those jobs with those who are not dropouts.

I also assume you operate under the Big Assumption, i.e.:

the experiences that constitute my individual life are representative of the entire human condition.

How lovely for you.

Posted by: George Pal at March 14, 2013 11:34 AM

Cass,

I concur wholeheartedly.

There is, to my way of thinking, in all philosophies, East or West, no greater disposition of the human, of man/woman than that represented by Taiji, better known as the yin yang symbol.

Taiji is the perfect circle, the human, in which are found two shapes, each shape precisely alike but for distinguishing inverse shades, one representing the male, the other the female. Each shape/shade engages the other i.e., no diameter can be drawn in the circle/human in which that half does not include the other. Within each shape, at the very center of its greatest part, rests a circle with the shade of the other. It instructs that within each opposite are the ingredients for harmony. There is no being human without being engaged by the other; there is no being human without consisting of the other. There is in this condition both understanding and mystery; I wouldn't have it any other way – even if I were put in charge of the creation of it.

Posted by: George Pal at March 14, 2013 11:37 AM

Not at all.

You see, those jobs were summer jobs 100s of miles away from home while I was playing summer baseball. Those experiences aren't really "mine" because they were not jobs I ordinarily would have taken per my own educational background.

The day we showed up at the ballpark, the GM told each player who had requested work who they were interviewing with the next day. To my employer, I was just another dumb jock: strong of back and weak of mind. Not a single one of them knew nor cared that I was a Math major. No resume was asked for nor given. The questions were pretty much nothing more than "can you show up on time", "why do you want a job", and "can you tell the different between latex and oil based paint".

Many of my coworkers were not high school graduates. And most weren't competing with them either. Not when you're 40 years old and making just a hair over minimum wage. It doesn't take a high school diploma to pick up scrap carpet and wood and throw it in a dumpster, nor to scrape up spackle off the subfloor, nor to take a box of bulk windshield wipers and put it into the retail box, nor to slap paint on a wall.

These are not really the experiences of a Cum Laude graduate with a degree in Math. Nobody hires those guys for 12 weeks on a part time basis.

Jobs for high school drop outs were out there. Something else was keeping them in the classroom.

You can make an argument that the last 4 years there have been a scarcity of jobs driving hapless students back into the classroom. But not for the 30 years prior to that.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at March 14, 2013 05:08 PM

And if you need scholastic research: http://economics.mit.edu/files/1474.

Per figure 1A. Those jobs in the bottom 12% of skill sets have seen a net *growth* in jobs between 1980 and 2005.

And the lower the skill the higher the job growth.

These are where your high school dropouts live.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at March 14, 2013 05:33 PM

YAG,

Service occupations are jobs that involve assisting or caring for others, for example, food service
workers, security guards, janitors and gardeners, cleaners, home health aides, child care workers,
hairdressers and beauticians, and recreation occupations. Though among the least educated and lowest paid categories of employment, the share of U.S. labor hours in service occupations grew by 30 percent between 1980 and 2005 after having been flat or declining in the three prior decades (Table 1). This rapid growth stands in contrast to declining employment in all similarly low-educated occupation groups, which include production and craft occupations, operative and assembler occupations, and transportation, construction, mechanical, mining and farm occupations.The increase was even steeper among non-college workers, by which we mean those with no more than a high school education, among whom service occupation employment rose from 12.9 to 19.8 percent of total work hours between 1980 and 2005...

So the 30% growth is in the least educated and lowest paid categories of employment from 1980 to 2005.

The United States admitted more legal immigrants from 1991 to 2000, between ten to eleven million, than in any previous decade.
Source: Immigration by Mary E. Williams, (San Diego: GreenHaven Press) 2004. Page 82.

Since 2000, legal immigrants to the United States number approximately 1,000,000 per year... Legal immigrants to the United States now are at their highest level ever, at just over 37,000,000.
Source: "Illegal immigrants in the US: How many are there?". Csmonitor.com.

Exacerbate that with however many –teens of millions of illegal immigrants there are and you have 50 million, for the most part, low IQ, rudimentarily educated, at best, immigrants for the very purpose of filling those lowest paid job categories. 50 million is a lot of job and wage competition to contend with, even for those with qualifications greater than dropout.

One last thing. Please note, on the dropout graph, the dropout rate for males began to fall... when... 1980; concurrent with, not only the beginning of lowest paying job growth but the greater factor, millions of legal and illegal immigrants entering the country, of which the illegals received the first of seven amnesties in 1986.

Posted by: George Pal at March 15, 2013 10:57 AM

"Exhibit I: a higher percentage of young men are completing college now than in the 1960s"

remedial courses for college students have risen too. Is calling a high-school education in 60s as college education in 21st century better? and paying thousands for it?

"Exhibit II: In absolute numbers, more young men are completing college too"

WOW?

"Exhibit III: The % of boys dropping out of HS has gone down over time by almost 50%"

again, are they learning more or less?

"Exhibit IV: Over time, average boys' grades have increased, too:"

You should look at the grade inflation in colleges.

"Exhibit V: Boys' Math SAT scores over time have increased"

Look up the number of asian kids getting 800s on it, the girls catching up is an artifact of them coming up against the real ceiling on SAT-M.
SAT recentering and getting easier to the point that scores above 750 are the same as 800, the dumbing down of the maths test, and the funny fact that once upon a time maths scores used to be lower than verbal!

I don't intend to take away anything from girls working hard and earning better grades, but when everyone is earning As what exactly are the grades telling us?

"Those were replaced with different tensions when I entered the workplace and we transitioned to a more "modern" division of labor/responsibility."

multiply that by few millions and the 2nd wavers accomplished with college degree populace what their foremothers did with the working class population.

Posted by: namae nanka at March 24, 2013 07:00 AM