The Corner

Single-Sex Education Makes You Smarter

Economist C. Kirabo Jackson has a new working paper studying the effects of single-sex education on students’ academic outcomes and criminal activity. (I’ve done some work on this subject as well.) The paper is very well done. From its conclusion:

The results show that single-sex education can improve both boys’ and girls’ outcomes. Three years after being assigned to a single-sex secondary school, both boys and girls have higher scores on standardized tests. Five years later, they are more likely to take and pass advanced courses. In the long run, both boys and girls are more likely to have completed secondary school and to have earned the credential required to continue to tertiary education. Importantly, boys are also less likely to have been arrested. Taken as a whole, the results suggest that being in the single-sex cohorts improved test scores and also improved longer-run non test score outcomes such as advanced course taking, high school completion and engaging in criminal activity. 

Importantly, Dr. Jackson, a friend of mine, points out that the benefits of single-sex instruction are free to the taxpayer — all you have to do is sort children into the appropriate classrooms or schools. His paper finds that the improvement in test scores from single-sex instruction are “about as large as the effect of going from a teacher at the 6th percentile of teacher quality to one at the 50th percentile of teacher quality.”

Dr. Jackson discusses several reasons why single-sex education might be beneficial. As the product of an all-boys high school — Rockhurst, the best high school inside the Milky Way — I have lived many of those benefits.


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