- The Gender Gap in Charter School Attendance
Authors: Sean P. Corcoran, Jennifer L. Jennings, Juli Simon Thomas
School Choice & School Improvement: What have we learned?
Though many studies have investigated the extent to which the racial, socioeconomic, and academic composition of charter schools differs from traditional schools, no studies have examined whether charters enroll and/or retain a higher fraction of girls. Understanding the gender balance of charters is critical to evaluating their distributional consequences and efficacy, given strong evidence of female peer effects, and a correlation between gender and non-cognitive skills relevant to school performance. Analyzing enrollment data for all charter and public schools from 1999-00 through 2006-07, we find that charters enroll a significantly higher fraction of girls, an imbalance that is largest in the secondary grades, and has grown steadily each year. We next use longitudinal data on North Carolina students to examine whether differential rates of retention and attrition help explain the gender gap in charter attendance. While attrition from charter schools is higher in all grades than from traditional schools, we find that boys are only slightly more likely to exit charter schools once enrolled. This suggests that much of the gender enrollment gap occurs at intake.