Quite how to interpret this particular finding is, well, it’s open. But one viable comment is that when girls associate with, are exposed to, alpha males they’re more likely to marry, have children, than they are to get educated and go to work. This effect seems limited to the bottom half of the female population.

We could even put it that being around men who might be able to provide for children and a domestic life increases the chances of choosing children and a domestic life. But that would be, of course, a highly sexist reading of this finding:

This paper studies the effect of exposure to female and male “high-achievers” in high school on the long-run educational outcomes of their peers. Using data from a recent cohort of students in the United States, we identify a causal effect by exploiting quasi-random variation in the exposure of students to peers with highly educated parents across cohorts within a school. We find that greater exposure to “high-achieving” boys, as proxied by their parents’ education, decreases the likelihood that girls go on to complete a bachelor’s degree, substituting the latter with junior college degrees. It also affects negatively their math and science grades and, in the long term, decreases labor force participation and increases fertility. We explore possible mechanisms and find that greater exposure leads to lower self-confidence and aspirations and to more risky behavior (including having a child before age 18). The girls most strongly affected are those in the bottom half of the ability distribution (as measured by the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test), those with at least one college-educated parent, and those attending a school in the upper half of the socioeconomic distribution. The effects are quantitatively important: an increase of one standard deviation in the percent of “high-achieving” boys decreases the probability of obtaining a bachelor’s degree from 2.2-4.5 percentage points, depending on the group. Greater exposure to “high-achieving” girls, on the other hand, increases bachelor’s degree attainment for girls in the lower half of the ability distribution, those without a college-educated parent, and those attending a school in the upper half of the socio-economic distribution. The effect of “high-achievers” on male outcomes is markedly different: boys are unaffected by “high-achievers” of either gender.

The thing is, what else explains these available facts? Note that this is what is necessary in any scientific hypothesis. That it be able to explain the observable facts.

So, anyone want to have another try and something more politically acceptable in this day and age?

Isn’t it clear? High-achieving boys’ school leaving certificates clog up the postal system and stop the application forms from low-achieving girls from getting through.

Girls who always see boys at the top of the class have less academic confidence and aspiration than girls who always see girls at the top of the class.

I don’t think it takes a lot of ideological commitment (in any direction) to see that as a possible mechanism.

Perhaps high achieving boys are more demanding of and/or prioritized by teachers to the detriment of teachers? Or perhaps teachers don’t care about lower sets, and when the ratio of higher achieving boys is higher this means the ratio of lower achieving girls must also be higher and so they get impacted more. I’m also not sure from the quote they are looking at marriage, just fertility, and in particular they highlight pre-18 pregnancies. So the further research might be are those pregancies caused by the higher performing ‘alpha males’ or is the type of males that get the girls… Read more »