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Fall Into the (Knowledge) Gap: An Examination of the Political Knowledge of Adolescents in Co-Educational and Single Sex Environments
Unformatted Document Text:  knowledge though there are no substantial differences on race-relevant issues (Delli Carpini 1986; Iyengar1986; and Zaller 1986). Perhaps the most persistent and consistent finding about political knowledge is that men score higher than women, (Delli Carpini and Keeter 1996, Verba, Burns, and Schlozman 1997; Mondak and Anderson 2004, Lambert et al 1988), and adolescent boys score higher than girls (Niemi and Junn 1998). It is a phenomenon that has endured over forty years of study (Delli Carpini and Keeter 1996), although the gap may be narrowing somewhat (Niemi and Junn 1998), and persists in the face of controls for levels of education, income, political interest, and media exposure (e.g., Garand, Guynan and Fournet 2004). Recent research finds that stereotype threat may be one of the factors that inhibit women’s political knowledge scores. Stereotype threat refers to the fear that one’s performance or behavior may confirm a negative stereotype of the group with which one identifies, with the anxiety or distraction evoked by the treat resulting in diminished performance. African-Americans and women score more poorly on intelligence and achievement tests under conditions where group stereotypes are invoked (Spence, Steele and Quinn 1999; Steele 1997, 1999). To the degree that politics is considered a masculine endeavor, tests of political knowledge may also induce stereotype threat. Fournet (2005) finds that women’s political knowledge scores improve when they are interviewed by women, whereas men’s scores are unaffected by the sex of the interviewer. Because advocates often argue that single-sex classrooms avoid boy-girl competition and break down gender stereotypes, we would expect that stereotype threat would also be lessened in the single-gender environment. Data and Measurement The data for this study come from the administration of a written questionnaire to 1,649 high school students in Oakland County and Wayne County, Michigan in 2004 and 2005. While the mass administered survey has come under fire as an inappropriate measure regarding the elementary student respondents in the early socialization studies, survey research is appropriate for late adolescence, just as it remains an important measure for adults in tapping political behavior. 7

Authors: Prough, Elizabeth. and Herring, Mary.
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knowledge though there are no substantial differences on race-relevant issues (Delli
Carpini 1986; Iyengar1986; and Zaller 1986).
Perhaps the most persistent and consistent finding about political knowledge is
that men score higher than women, (Delli Carpini and Keeter 1996, Verba, Burns, and
Schlozman 1997; Mondak and Anderson 2004, Lambert et al 1988), and adolescent boys
score higher than girls (Niemi and Junn 1998). It is a phenomenon that has endured over
forty years of study (Delli Carpini and Keeter 1996), although the gap may be narrowing
somewhat (Niemi and Junn 1998), and persists in the face of controls for levels of
education, income, political interest, and media exposure (e.g., Garand, Guynan and
Fournet 2004).
Recent research finds that stereotype threat may be one of the factors that inhibit
women’s political knowledge scores. Stereotype threat refers to the fear that one’s
performance or behavior may confirm a negative stereotype of the group with which one
identifies, with the anxiety or distraction evoked by the treat resulting in diminished
performance. African-Americans and women score more poorly on intelligence and
achievement tests under conditions where group stereotypes are invoked (Spence, Steele
and Quinn 1999; Steele 1997, 1999). To the degree that politics is considered a masculine
endeavor, tests of political knowledge may also induce stereotype threat. Fournet (2005)
finds that women’s political knowledge scores improve when they are interviewed by
women, whereas men’s scores are unaffected by the sex of the interviewer. Because
advocates often argue that single-sex classrooms avoid boy-girl competition and break
down gender stereotypes, we would expect that stereotype threat would also be lessened
in the single-gender environment.
Data and Measurement
The data for this study come from the administration of a written questionnaire to
1,649 high school students in Oakland County and Wayne County, Michigan in 2004 and
2005. While the mass administered survey has come under fire as an inappropriate
measure regarding the elementary student respondents in the early socialization studies,
survey research is appropriate for late adolescence, just as it remains an important
measure for adults in tapping political behavior.
7


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