THE GENDER GAP: WOMEN AND MEN WHO TAKE THE GED TESTS

      THE GENDER GAP:  WOMEN AND MEN WHO TAKE THE GED TESTS
         BY Elisabeth Hayes and Janet Balwin

         (Elisabeth Hayes, Ph.D., is assistant professor at the
         University of Wisconsin at Madison.  Janet Baldwin,
         Ph.D., is director of policy research at the GED Testing
         Service.)

 From _The Center Update_, The Center for Adult Learning and
 Educational Credentials, American Council on Education, No. 79,
 Spring 1993.

 1.  Why are Gender Differences Important?

 Over the last few decades, educational practitioners and
 researchers have become increasingly aware of differences in
 educational access, experiences, and outcomes for women and men.
 While the greatest emphasis has been on reducing inequities for
 women, men may also be adversely affected by biases in
 educational strategies and programs.

 The findings in this report are based on a Fall 1989 nationwide
 survey of GED candidates.  Several points should be kept in mind
 when interpreting these findings.  First, the identified
 diferences indicate general tendencies rather than absolute
 differences between women and men.  While the focus in this
 report is on differences between men and women, many
 commonalities exist in their experiences; educators and
 policy-makers should give attention to both similarities as well
 as differences when making program and policy decisions.
 Secondly, gender-related differences may vary according to other
 characteristics, such as race, ethnicity, and age.  The
 relatively small proportions of minorities in the candidate
 sample (as described in the following section) made analysis of
 racial and ethnic group differences inappropriate, except for
 discussion of overall participation rates.  Further research
 with larger samples is needed to clarify potentially distinctive
 experiences of minority women and men.  Finally, the experiences
 of women and men are changing as gender-related norms and
 expectations change.  Despite considerable progress towards
 educational equity for women and men, the following disparities
 have implications for educational policies and practices.

 Key Findings and Implications

 * Two-thirds of women candidates (68 percent) reported living in
   households with at least one child.  Only half (49 percent) of
   men did so.  Women candidates are far mor likely to share a
   household with children--which can limit their ability to
   participate in formal classes or to study at home or
   elsewhere.  Programs that provide free childcare would
   increase access to education for women and men.

 * Half of men candidates (50 percent) were living in a household
   with at least two other adults--probably their parents--compared
   with only one-third (37 percent) of women.  Women candidates, on
   the other hand, were far more likely (63 percent) to be living
   with one other adult--probably a spouse--or none.  Thus, women
   candidates are more likely than men to be single heads of
   household or to share household responsibilities with one
   other adult.

 * Women were more likely (36 percent) than men (26 percent) to
   report annual household incomes of less than $10,000.  By
   contrast, men were nearly twice as likely (18 percent) as
   women (10 percent) to report annual household incomes of more
   than $40,000.  Earning a GED Diploma may provide an important
   method for both women and men to increase their earnings
   potential.

 Conclusion

 Understanding differences in the experiences of female and male
 GED candidates is useful to GED program personnel in several
 ways.  First, variations in women's and men's GED program
 participation suggest the need to target recruitment strategies
 and support specifically to women or men.  Secondly, differences
 in women and men's life situations, previous educational needs
 have implications for the design of GED preparation programs.
 Finally, differences in anticipated (and actual) outcomes for
 women and men suggest that alternative follow-up strategies are
 necessary to ensure that both groups are successful in achieving
 further goals.



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