Mind the gap! Examining the gender differences in African American educational achievement

Faye Allard, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

The educational achievement of young African American males is significantly less than their female counterparts. Though this gendered pattern of achievement is true across all races in the American education system, it is particularly acute in the African American community and ultimately serves to maintain broader racial inequalities. Drawn from a six year ethnography based in a large, inner city public high school, this study investigates why urban female African American high school students have higher levels of educational achievement than African American males. Specifically, this study examines how the friendship networks of high school aged African Americans serve to influence their educational achievement inside and outside of the classroom. Furthermore, it investigates how real life and celebrity role models influence the educational and career aspirations of these young people. Finally, this study seeks to demonstrate the important role that mothers and becoming a mother has on education. Three key explanations as to why African American females have higher levels of educational achievement than African American males emerged from this data. First, and most importantly, boys and girls have differing perceptions of the opportunities open to them. Aided by their mothers, girls have access to broader social networks than boys resulting in them being exposed to a wider range of women who represent more numerous role models and potential careers to aspire to. A second important factor is that African American girls have a much stronger commitment to, and belief in, societal value systems than boys. Finally, the inter-relationship between culture and structure explains not only how the gender gap in African American educational achievement occurs in the first place, but also demonstrates why this gap is widening at an ever increasing rate.

Subject Area

Black studies|Educational sociology|Secondary education|Ethnic studies|African American Studies

Recommended Citation

Allard, Faye, "Mind the gap! Examining the gender differences in African American educational achievement" (2008). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3309388.
https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI3309388

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