Sociology Gender and Education
Claudia Buchmann, Chrisse Edmunds
  • LAST REVIEWED: 01 July 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 July 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0151


The study of gender and education encompasses gender differences in educational outcomes such as achievement, attainment, and experiences within the education system. This field also moves beyond the study of how gender influences educational outcomes and incorporates how these differences impact the labor market, family formation, and health outcomes. Early research in gender and education focused on whether differences in the educational outcomes of males and females were due to biological differences. Over time, research began to show that biological differences between genders tend to be smaller than those within gender. Thus, biological differences may play a relatively small role in educational outcomes while other factors like socialization and differences in expectations of boys and girls may play a larger role. Research on primary and secondary school students examined how peer, teacher, and family interactions are related to gender differences while research on higher education examined sex segregation by major and gender differences in choices to attend or complete college. Recently, research has shifted to examine the causes and consequences of the reversal of the gender gap in educational attainment. Women now outpace men in both college enrollment and completion in the majority of countries throughout the world. However, stark gender differences are still registered in field of study and returns to educational credentials. This article includes classic works, research resources, empirical articles, and theoretical perspectives on gender and education.

General Overviews

General overviews of gender and education provide broad information on trends and theories in this field. Jacobs 1996 focuses on gender specific trends in higher education and early theories that sought to explain these differences, while Buchmann, et al. 2008 provides a contemporary review of the literature on gender inequalities in education. DiPrete and Buchmann 2013 provides a thorough review and analyses of historical trends in gender and education in the United States, while Charles 2011 reviews trends in gender equality in education throughout the world. Grant and Behrman 2010 and King and Hill 1997 both examine education patterns by gender in developing countries. Today, like developed nations, these countries are experiencing a reversal of the gender education gap where females now have an advantage over males.

  • Buchmann, C., T. A. DiPrete, and A. McDaniel. 2008. Gender inequalities in education. Annual Review of Sociology 34.1: 319–337.

    Buchmann, DiPrete, and McDaniel review the literature on gender inequalities in education. This work examines trends and explanations for gender educational disparities in the United States. It then recommends productive directions for future research.

  • Charles, M. 2011. A world of difference: International trends in women’s economic status. Annual Review of Sociology 37.1: 355–371.

    Charles reviews theories and evidence of international trends in gender equality. She offers diverse explanations for uneven and counter-intuitive sex-segregation patterns in education, the labor market, and the household.

  • DiPrete, T. A., and C. Buchmann. 2013. The rise of women: The growing gender gap in education and what it means for American schools. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

    DiPrete and Buchmann provide an overview of the broader societal changes that accompanied the change in gender trends in higher education. To explain these trends, they chart the performance of boys and girls over the educational life course with rigorous data; they consider the gender-specific impacts of factors such families, schools, peers, race, and class, and they offer clear recommendations for policies and research.

  • Grant, M. J., and J. R. Behrman. 2010. Gender gaps in educational attainment in less developed countries. Population and Development Review 36.1: 71–89.

    This article examines gender gaps in education throughout developing countries. Grant and Behrman examine thirty-eight countries in six developing regions around the world. Developing countries are becoming more like developed nations in terms of experiencing a shift toward a female advantage in education.

  • Jacobs, J. A. 1996. Gender inequality and higher education. Annual Review of Sociology 22.1: 153–185.

    Jacobs provides a thorough review of the literature related to gender and higher education that was published prior to 1996. Though outdated and not inclusive of current trends, this article provides insight into previous interpretations of theories and trends related to gender and education.

  • King, E. M., and M. A. Hill, eds. 1997. Women’s education in developing countries: Barriers, benefits, and policies. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press.

    This edited volume includes essays and articles by scholars about women’s education in developing countries, including general trends, returns to women’s education, and regional differences in gender and education.

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