Explaining the Gulf
According to Kevin A. Hassett in his April 22 column, a “gulf has emerged” between the academic achievements of boys and girls — women now earn 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees and 60 percent of master’s degrees, for example — and “new clues” explain the roots of these differences. A graph plots the differences of time spent on children’s cognitive activities (number of books a child owns, attendance at story hours, and visits to the library).
But of the six comparisons, the greatest difference has to do with library visits among two-year-olds. About 30 percent of girls visited a library in the past month, as compared with 24 percent of boys — a six-percentage-point difference, as compared with the roughly 20-point gaps in degree-earning. How such a small difference can produce an “achievement gulf” is not clear — and at any rate, girls mature faster than boys, so such a difference among young children is hardly surprising.
Mr. Hassett is entirely correct about one thing, though — yes, boys are more wiggly than girls!
Margaret B. Larson
Mt. Airy, Md.
Kevin A. Hassett replies: Even though the differences in activities between boys and girls from the study I described may appear small, the cumulative effect of all the small differences is startlingly large. The authors of the study show that the difference in parental activities was responsible for up to 50 percent of the differences in boys’ and girls’ cognitive-test scores when they entered kindergarten. The activities listed are only some of the many ways that parental involvement may affect academic performance, which may well explain the large estimated impact. Visiting the library, for example, may be a proxy for other differences. The striking thing is that the “wiggles” in the data are found to have a major impact, leaving less to be explained by the wiggles in the boys.
In “King Roger” (May 6), Jay Nordlinger reviewed Zev Chafets’s new book, Roger Ailes: Off Camera. He quoted the author as saying that Ailes pioneered the use of musical “intros and outros” in television news. He went on to question this claim. In fact, Chafets quotes a Berkeley professor, who makes the claim. He does not make it himself.
In addition, a letter in the May 6 issue stated that Berkshire Hathaway A shares were valued at $155; in fact, they were valued at $155,000.