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Closing the Gender Gap in Math Confidence: Gender and Race/Ethnic Similarities and Differences

Chardie L Baird, Jennifer Reid Keene


This paper uses data from the U.S.-based Education Longitudinal Study, 2002 (ELS02) to examine gender and race/ethnic similarities and differences in high achieving math students’ confidence in their math ability. Previous research indicates that negative cultural beliefs about gender and math ability lead young women to evaluate themselves as less competent at math than young men do, even when their achievements are the same or higher. However, groups who face negative cultural beliefs based on their race/ethnicity do not lack confidence. We examine math confidence across and within gender and race/ethnic groups among students with “As” in their high school math classes. OLS regression results demonstrate that young women of all race/ethnicities have lower math confidence than young men, even when they have the same level of math achievement. Young women who are Asian have less math confidence than all other students. Finally, the math confidence of all young women who have As in their math classes, except for young women who are Asian, converges with young men’s math confidence when the effects of standardized tests on math confidence vary for students who are Asian and the effects of math GPAs vary for young women and students who are Asian.


gender; confidence; math; STEM; race/ethnicity

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