DP16895 Gender, Income, and Numeracy Test Scores

Author(s): Jaai Parasnis, Molly Paterson, Michelle Rendall
Publication Date: January 2022
Keyword(s): Australia, Decomposition, gender, Household Income, Numeracy, Parental education, role models, Stereotypes
JEL(s): I20, I24, J16
Programme Areas: Labour Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=16895

The performance of students in numeracy tests reveals gaps based on students' gender and household income. In this paper, using longitudinal data on Australian children, we show the interrelationship between (i) socioeconomic gaps based on early-life household income, and (ii) the gender gap in numeracy. We find that between Grades 3 to 9, boys have a distinct advantage in numeracy scores over girls, which widens over time. We also find that, by Grade 9, poorer female students are doubly disadvantaged. This disadvantage does not arise because of differences in socioeconomic status between boys and girls but because the effect of a lower socioeconomic background on test scores is significant only for girls. We find that mother's education and labor force status play an important role in the emergence of gender gaps, at both ends (top and bottom) of the income distribution. We confirm that early life circumstances continue to impact student's achievement well into adolescence and these exacerbate gender gaps, thus demonstrating the importance of targeted early interventions to address gaps in key skills acquisition for the modern economy.