Habits That Make, Habits That Break: Early Childhood Behavior Problems and the Gender Gap in Education in the United States

Jayanti Owens, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Over the past three decades, females in the United States have comprised a growing majority of high school and college graduates. An understudied explanation for this female attainment advantage is females' lower levels of self-regulation problems and social problems. With macro-level social shifts, including gender parity in parental investments in children and the opening of the labor market for women, males' long-standing behavioral disadvantage in childhood may now translate into lower levels of educational attainment compared to females. Using newly-available, prospective panel data on a national sample of children followed from birth in the 1980's through much of their twenties, results show that the life-course origins of today's female advantage in attainment trace back to females' lower levels of early childhood behavior problems. Early behavior problems shape and are shaped by educational achievement and social context but pathways differ for males and females, as does the timing of educational transitions.

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Presented in Session 94: Gendered Contexts, Gendered Implications: Demographic Processes in Family, School, and Work in the U.S.