In developed countries, on average, boys underperform girls at school. They are much worse at reading, less likely to go to university, and their lead in maths is shrinking (to nothingness, in countries such as China and Singapore). In Britain, white working-class boys perform especially badly. Educationalists have only recently started focusing on the boy problem in earnest, though Smith says: “I don’t think there’s a school in the country that hasn’t thought about it.” So what can be done for boys?
An uneven gender balance has long been observed in parts of Asia, particularly China, India and South Korea. In those countries it is usually a result of the higher cost of bringing up girls — expensive dowries must be found in order to marry them or else they remain dependent on the family. In recent years, however, demographers have been struck by the emergence of a similarly skewed pattern in the Caucasus and the Balkans.