Gender Inequality in Schools: The Transition From Elementary to Middle School and the Emergence of the Gender Gap
Ranita Ray

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



University of Nevada

Primary Discipline

School is one of the only institutional contexts where girls tend to outperform boys. This gender gap deepens in predominantly economically marginalized and Black and Latinx communities. While this gender gap in academic achievement has gained attention in the media leading to various misguided conversations around ââ?¬Å?reverse gender discriminationââ?¬Â and ââ?¬Å?biological sex differences,ââ?¬Â few social scientists have theoretically and empirically examined its complexities in K-12 U.S. educational settings. And those who have studied this gender gap tend to focus on gendered socialization patterns and peer culture. These scholars argue that schools create feminine learning contexts, and they further contend that Black and Latino boys embrace local adolescent ââ?¬Å?oppositional culturesââ?¬Â that rewards masculinity and resistance to schooling. Are schools indeed failing boys? I argue the role of schools is more complex for the state intersects with the gender regime to perpetuate racial dominance. My project, set in the city of Las Vegas (one of the most underperforming school districts in the country), draws on longitudinal and multi-contextual ethnography and archival research to examine the intersections of state, gender, and race to first underline the configuration of this gender inequality and then highlight how schools foster gender inequality early in the life course. Combining insights from sociology of education, women-of-color feminisms, developmental psychology, education policy research, and critical theories of race, my analysis offers a feminist of color intervention about the gender gap in academic achievement through an empirically motivated theorization of the relationship between gender, race, and schooling.
About Ranita Ray
Ranita Ray is assistant professor of Sociology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Ray is a critical feminist ethnographer interested in interrogating established ways of thinking about education, children and youth, poverty, and urban inequalities through interdisciplinary research, and by underlining the intersections of gender and racial dominance. Her book, The Making of a Teenage Service Class: Poverty and Mobility in an American City (University of California Press, 2018), challenges common wisdom that targeting ?risk behaviors? among Black and brown youth such as drugs, gangs, violence, and teen parenthood is key to breaking the cycle of poverty. Ray?s research has been published in Social Problems, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, The American Journal of Bioethics, Sociology Compass, as well as other edited volumes. Ray has received funding for her research from the National Science Foundation, and she is also a Racial Democracy, Crime and Justice Network Research Fellow.

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