A new study shows that even when countries where lots of moms have high-status STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) jobs, math anxiety for girls is significant. Whats more, the gap between girls and boys anxiety in math is bigger in more developed and equitable countries. The study, published in PlosOne, analyzed data from more than 750,000 15-year-old students across 68 countries. The researchers wanted to explore the anxiety gap: if cultural norms played a big role, then more gender-equal countries would show a smaller gap. Countries where lots of moms worked in high-powered STEM jobs would surely show a smaller performance gap between girls and boys and a smaller anxiety gap. The researchers found that when equality is low, math performance for both girls and boys tends to be low, and anxiety over the subject is high. As gender equality improves, performance improves and math anxiety for everyone declines. But the drop in anxiety is dramatically steeper for boys than girls. In the US and Britain, for example, theres a small performance gap favoring boys, but the anxiety gap is three times larger.
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