Are There gender and Race Differences?

Just as individuals differ in their average levels of self-esteem, so too do social and cultural groups. If you were to administer a self-esteem test to thousands of people all over the world, would you find that some segments of the population score higher than others? Would you expect to see average differences between men and women, people of different skin colors, or inhabitants of different cul- tures? Believing that self-esteem promotes health, happiness, and success and concerned that some groups are disadvantaged in this regard, researchers have indeed made these types of comparisons.

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Let’s start with gender. Over the years, a lot has been written in the popular press about the inflated but fragile “male ego,” the low self-regard among adolescent girls and young women, and the resulting gender-related “confidence gap.” Does the research support this assumption? To find out, Kristin Kling and others (1999) statis- tically combined the results of over 200 studies involving 97,000 respondents. Then they analyzed the surveys of 48,000 American students conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics. The result: Among adolescents and adults, males out- scored females on various general measures of self-esteem. The difference, however, was small, particularly among older adults. In fact, male–female differences are spe- cific to different aspects of self-esteem. In a meta-analysis of 115 studies involving 32,486 individuals, Brittany Gentile and others (2009) found that although men have higher self-esteem with regard to physical appearance and athletic abilities, women have higher self-esteem when it comes to matters of ethics and personal morality.

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