Where do all the smart girls go?

This question had initially popped up in my head about a year back when I was in the arranged scissors market and was getting frustrated about not meeting any smart girls. This was around the time when I had to indicate to some shady “marriage exchange” about my preferences in terms of the girl’s education and I gave some serious thought to it, but for some reason ended up not blogging about it.

I don’t want to get into debates regarding “better” colleges here so let’s just simplify that discussion and rank colleges by demand for admission for undergraduate courses. Again it is not going to be a precise ordering since different colleges have different admission processes but I’m sure that with some approximation and adjustment such an ordering is possible. Yeah this is also not a precise ordering butI supose this is the best we can get. As Prof Ramnath Narayanswamy says, “reality doesn’t matter. Perception does”.

Now make a table with three columns. In the first column write down the above prepared list in order, with the number one college on top. In the second column, write down the average number of boys each college typically admits per year, and in the third column the average number of girls admitted by the college.

Next, add two more columns to the table. In the fourth, make a “cumulative total” of the second column and in the fifth a “cumulative total” of the third column. So if I look at the nth row of the 4th column, I know the average number of boys admitted in a typical year by colleges ranked 1 to n. Similarly for girls and the fifth column.

My hypothesis is that at least for the first 100 rows, the number in the 4th column is at least twice as much as the number in the 5th column. Actually, I would go a step further and say that the above is true for the first 500 rows. If you look at the papers the day after CBSE announces its board exam results, you will see that girls would’ve done as well on average, if not better, than boys. So where do all the smart girls go?

One thing might be that there might be certain courses which girls show a marked preference for but most boys avoid because of which demand goes down because of which they go down in the rankings. Another could be that girls in general have preferences so niche that the best colleges in these niches don’t show that kind of admission demand. On the other hand, boys seem more homogeneous (everyone wants to do engineering) because of which demand for the best engineering colleges is really high.

There is a school of thought that a large number of girls are interested in the humanities which few boys show a liking for so a lot of smart girls are to be found in the better humanities colleges. But then, what happens in cities such as Bangalore or Madras which simply don’t have the same kind of humanities colleges as do cities such as Delhi and Bombay? Do girls who want to do humanities in these cities still go to the not-so-great humanities colleges rather than choosing better (in general) colleges in other disciplines?

Another explanation is girls only colleges where naturally demand is low since half the population can’t apply. But then I would expect the better of these to have enough demand that they rank fairly high. I’m again not satisfied by this explanation.

So the question remains. Where do all the smart girls go? Don’t tell me some of them actually choose not to go to college or something!