Multi-Level Analysis of the Effects of Gender- and Socio-Economic Classroom Composition on the Gender Gap in Reading Skills in the Netherlands
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The purpose of this research paper was to investigate the relationships between reading skills, gender, and gender- and socio-economic classroom composition in the Netherlands. It is hypothesized that this gender gap is smaller if the majority of the classroom is female and of a higher socio-economic status, and, furthermore, that the positive effect of a mostly female classroom is higher if the classroom’s socio-economic status was is higher. To test this, the PIRLS 2016 dataset (Martin et al., 2017; Gubbels et al., 2017) was used, which was administered among 4th-graders (in Dutch: groep 6). The data that was analysed consisted of 4144 students from 132 different schools. Multilevel analysis shows that boys are poorer readers than girls, and that both higher individual socio-economic status and the average socio-economic status of the classroom positively influenced the reading performance of either gender. Whether there was a majority of girls in the classroom was not relevant for the gender gap, which was also unaffected by both measured forms of socio-economic status. What this research shows is that the gender gap in reading skills exists among 4th-graders in the Netherlands, and that it is not affected by classroom composition of gender or socio-economic status. With this conclusion, the paper adds to the existing literature by finding that the gap already exists at primary-school age, and that, in the Netherlands, it is not easily mitigated by these school climate factors. Future research could investigate whether the relevance of composition effects depends on age and culture.