Earn Mediocre Grades Now, Make More Money Later

Let’s face it, math and science are hard. They are also lucrative. A recent Washington Post article offered some important insight into why women students at UC Davis shouldn’t let temporary academic mediocrity prevent them from embracing careers in the STEM disciplines.

Women should embrace the B’s in college to make more later

Claudia Goldin/Harvard University – This chart shows the percentage of male and female students who received a given grade in introductory economics course who then later majored in economics. Data refer to an anonymous research institution, from a study by Harvard Professor Claudia Goldin.


A message to the nation’s women: Stop trying to be straight-A students.

No, not because you might intimidate easily emasculated future husbands. Because, by focusing so much on grades, you might be limiting your earning and learning potential.

The college majors that tend to lead to the most profitable professions are also the stingiest about awarding A’s. Science departments grade, on a four-point scale, an average of 0.4 points lower than humanities departments, according to a 2010 analysisof national grading data by Stuart Rojstaczer and Christopher Healy. And two new research studies suggest that women might be abandoning these lucrative disciplines precisely because they’re terrified of getting B’s.

It’s not clear from the data why women might be more sensitive to grades than men are.U.S. college graduates with STEM and economics degrees have among the highest median salaries. Men might be more likely to see themselves as future breadwinners and persevere in studies that are likely to maximize their earnings — come hell or high water or B-minuses.Colleges have a role in helping women realize that quantitative fields are within their reach. Administrators might try to reduce the grading differential between humanities and STEM fields or provide better support systems for women who get discouraged.

But women must also change their myopic attitudes about the significance of grades.

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