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Gender, Research

Gender bias in children’s books

Some sad statistics about the male bias even in children’s books.

Janice McCabe, assistant professor of sociology at Florida State University led the study in 2011 of nearly 6,000 books published from 1900 to 2000.

The results are startling and disappointing;

  • Males are central characters in 57 percent of children’s books published per year, while only 31 percent have female central characters.
  • No more than 33 percent of children’s books published in any given year contain central characters that are adult women or female animals, but adult men and male animals appear in up to 100 percent of books.
  • Male animals are central characters in more than 23 percent of books per year, while female animals are in only 7.5 percent.
  • On average, 36.5 percent of books in each year studied include a male in the title, compared to 17.5 percent that include a female.
  • Although books published in the 1990’s came close to parity for human characters, a significant disparity of nearly 2 to 1 remains for male animal characters versus female.

“The widespread pattern of underrepresentation of females that we find supports the belief that female characters are less important and interesting than male characters,” McCabe said. “This may contribute to a sense of unimportance among girls and privilege among boys.”

The study “Gender in Twentieth-Century Children’s Books: Patterns of Disparity in Titles and Central Characters” is available at http://gas.sagepub.com/content/25/2/197.abstract

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