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Disparities in High School Graduation Rates Between Males and Females Have Long-Term Implications

by Michael Nguyen
9 comments
gender gap in high school graduation rates

Though they share the same educational environments, curricula, and often even family backgrounds, girls are consistently outpacing boys in public high schools across the nation when it comes to graduation rates.

This gender gap is considerable, frequently mirroring the educational achievement differences seen between affluent and economically disadvantaged students—a matter that has garnered significant attention from policy makers over the years. However, the factors contributing to lower graduation rates among boys remain less understood.

Conversations with students, educational professionals, and researchers indicate multiple contributing elements. Men, for example, can often secure comparable wages to women despite having lower educational qualifications. Furthermore, boys are more frequently subjected to disciplinary actions, such as suspensions, that can hinder their academic progression. Additionally, they are less likely to seek assistance for mental health issues.

Initially, some male dropouts appear to fare reasonably well, finding stable employment. However, long-term analyses reveal that the absence of a high school diploma can significantly limit a man’s career and earning potential, and increases the likelihood of legal issues.

Bryant West, a resident of Pascagoula, Mississippi, left high school in 2020, halfway through his studies. Instead of focusing on academic subjects he found irrelevant, West chose to work in fast-food and landscaping to support his family financially. He later earned his GED, stating, “This was simply another path I chose.”

Beth Jarosz, a program director at the research organization PRB, posits that young men like West may not prioritize graduating because they can still sustain themselves financially without a high school diploma. Jarosz notes that men without high school diplomas often earn as much as women with some college education.

Though the U.S. government mandates reporting of graduation rates based on racial, ethnic, and other demographic categories, gender-based reporting is not obligatory. Nonetheless, available data from states that do report these numbers reveals that female students consistently graduate at higher rates than their male counterparts.

In 2018, an estimated 45,000 fewer boys than girls graduated high school, according to researcher Richard Reeves. Data for that year indicates an 88% graduation rate for girls versus 82% for boys—a gap that persisted in 2021, based on a follow-up study.

Various school districts have been exploring methods to address the gender gap. Yonkers, New York, for instance, has implemented mentorship programs specifically targeted at boys of color, which have proven effective. Edwin Quezada, the district’s former Superintendent, emphasized that boys are more frequently referred to special education and are subject to higher rates of suspension, both factors that can impede on-time graduation.

In Buffalo, where the graduation gender gap was 10 percentage points in 2022, schools have incorporated strategies from the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative and collaborated with education advocacy groups to provide mentorship and recruit male teachers. Jeffrey Hammond, a spokesperson for the district, states that research shows girls are generally more future-oriented, set academic objectives, and face fewer disciplinary actions compared to boys.

Data regarding the intersection of race and gender in graduation rates is limited, but Reeves’ latest research indicates that the gender gap is particularly wide among Black students, compared to their white or Asian counterparts.

While the gender disparity in graduation rates is challenging to fully explain, Beth Jarosz of PRB asserts that structural racism accounts for some educational gaps but is not the determining factor when it comes to the gender-based differences in graduation rates.


The educational reporting team of The Big Big News is funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The AP maintains full editorial control over the content.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about gender gap in high school graduation rates

What is the main focus of this report?

The main focus of the report is the persistent gender gap in high school graduation rates across the United States. It examines the long-term consequences and various factors that contribute to lower graduation rates among boys compared to girls.

How significant is the gender gap in high school graduation rates?

The gender gap in graduation rates is considerable, often mirroring the achievement differences between students from affluent and low-income families. In 2018, an estimated 45,000 fewer boys than girls graduated from high school.

What factors contribute to this gender gap?

Several factors contribute to the gender gap in high school graduation rates. These include disciplinary actions like suspensions that boys face more frequently, men’s ability to secure similar wages as women with lower educational qualifications, and less likelihood of boys to seek mental health support.

Are there any initiatives that have successfully addressed this issue?

Yes, some school districts have implemented initiatives to tackle the gender gap. For example, the city of Yonkers, New York, raised graduation rates for boys of color through mentorship programs. In Buffalo, schools have incorporated strategies from the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative to help boys succeed.

Is the gender gap in graduation rates reported by all states?

No, the U.S. government does not require states to report high school graduation rates by gender. However, data from states that do report these figures consistently shows that female students graduate at higher rates than male students.

Is race a factor in the gender gap in graduation rates?

Limited data is available on the intersection of race and gender in graduation rates, but some research suggests that the gender gap is particularly wide among Black students, compared to white or Asian students.

What are the long-term consequences of this gender gap?

Over the long term, men who drop out of high school tend to earn less and are more likely to face legal issues. The lack of a high school diploma can significantly limit a man’s career and earning potential.

Who are the main stakeholders involved in addressing this issue?

The main stakeholders involved include educational professionals, policy makers, researchers, and community organizations. Various school districts and advocacy groups are also implementing initiatives to tackle the issue.

Does structural racism play a role in the gender gap in graduation rates?

According to experts like Beth Jarosz of PRB, while structural racism accounts for some educational gaps, it is not the determining factor when it comes to gender-based differences in graduation rates.

More about gender gap in high school graduation rates

  • High School Graduation Rates by State
  • Gender Disparities in Education
  • The Economic Impact of High School Dropouts
  • “My Brother’s Keeper” Initiative
  • Role of Mentorship in Education
  • The Intersection of Race and Gender in Education
  • PRB Research on Educational Disparities

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9 comments

SamW October 29, 2023 - 8:22 am

Good to see some schools are actually doing something about it. But one or two success stories aren’t enough. We need nationwide change.

Reply
MartinK October 29, 2023 - 8:59 am

Didn’t expect that race also plays a role in the gender gap in some states. more research needed!

Reply
Raj Patel October 29, 2023 - 9:51 am

So the govt doesn’t require gender-specific grad data? That’s a loophole that needs fixing, ASAP.

Reply
John D. October 29, 2023 - 2:21 pm

Fascinating read. Didn’t know the gender gap in HS grad rates was this bad. what’s the next step?

Reply
Sarah_G October 29, 2023 - 2:43 pm

This is an important issue. Good to know there are some initiatives making a difference but clearly more needs to be done.

Reply
Emily Thompson October 29, 2023 - 4:48 pm

Eye-opening article, really. Especially the part about how boys get disciplined more often, affecting their education journey. That’s a crucial point.

Reply
Tina Z October 29, 2023 - 4:54 pm

I was shocked by how many boys drop out because they think they can earn as much without a diploma. Not thinking long term, are they?

Reply
AlexV October 29, 2023 - 7:16 pm

The article could’ve touched on how online learning during the pandemic impacted this. just a thought.

Reply
Nancy M. October 30, 2023 - 1:06 am

Why isn’t this more talked about? serious issue here.

Reply

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