Thursday, August 07, 2008

Math and sex update

Dr. Janet Hyde (see also) was lead author of a research study that examined differences in how boys and girls perform in math. She has a long history of seeking to demonstrate that the so-called "gender" specific psychological differences between men and women are virtually non-existent. That this idea violates most people's common sense experience is explained by nuture, not nature. It's about proving there is no difference between the sexes that can be accounted for biologically - it's all about the patriarchy social conditioning.

Among other things Dr. Hyde's report found (much more at this link) is that boys are more variable in math skills than girls:
...their paper does mention that in the 99th percentile, they found the boys:girls ratio to be 2.06:1 (and for the 95th percentile, it was 1.45:1). Incidentally, these numbers roughly agree with Figure 2 in La Griffe du Lion's text about these matters. But Hyde et al. were very careful that this particular result didn't get into the media.

...It's been more than three years when Larry Summers introduced the width of the statistical distributions into the public debate but when you make a Google search, you will see that 99% of people still don't seem to get the point. Most people in the world are just stunningly stupid.

If you're one of them and you're disturbed by all these differences and you want to hear something encouraging about ordinary people, let me tell you that it can be calculated that if you pick a random man and a random woman, the woman will be g-smarter than the man in 45% of the cases. You need to calculate a somewhat tough integral to get this result. As Barbie correctly said, math class is tough. ;-)
However, Dr. Hyde's public pronouncements never mention this finding. She told Reuters,
"there aren't gender differences anymore in math performance" that could account for the pre-eminence of men in strongly quantitative careers such as math and physics
The discrepancy between Dr. Hyde's results and her rhetoric is suspicious. The high variability of boys' math performance could entirely account for the fact that the sex of those employed in high-end math and science careers is preponderantly male. What scientist would want to suppress this possibly inherent difference as a matter of public policy? One who does not like the conclusion.

Here's more on why seemingly small distribution differences at the high end of the scale are an important question: Small Differences in Variability of Ability Translate Into Big Differences 3-4 Std. Deviations from Mean
Assume that to be successful and get tenure in the math department at Harvard or MIT, you have to be 3-4 standard deviations above average, which is what Larry Summers said - "We're talking about people who are three and a half, four standard deviations above the mean...."

In that case, wouldn't we expect females to be under-represented, as the experiment above demonstrates, where "men" represent 77% of those observations 4 or more standard deviations above the mean?
We would, if we didn't have an agenda.

Several related TOC posts on this topic may be found here.

No comments: