Girls in School in France over the Twentieth Century:Investigating the Claim of a Double Gender-social Origins Handicap
This article presents and analyzes trends in gender and social inequalities at school from the early twentieth century on, in light of developments in state-defined study program “supply” and economic context. It makes use of data from INSEE’s Education, qualification, and career surveys (Formation-Qualification Professionnelle : FQP). Over the twentieth century in France, girls first caught up with boys, then overtook them, in access to lower and upper secondary school (collège and lycée), while segregation by gender for the various study options remained relatively unchanged. The reversal in gender inequality stands in contrast to slighter reductions in social inequality, which remained much greater throughout the period. Meanwhile, the social inequality hierarchy was not much affected, remaining similar for the two sexes, with the children of cadres sharply ahead of all others. Girls of working-class origin were slower to catch up with their male counterparts, but they are well ahead today. Daughters of farmers and small self-employed business persons have benefited most. The claim made in many research studies of a double handicap for girls –gender and social origins– is thus confirmed only for the earliest of the cohorts studied.