Worldwide, 30-year-old men have spent 10 years in school, on average. How many years have women of the same age spent in school?

  • A. 9 years
  • B. 6 years
  • C. 3 years

Correct answer

According to data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the average 30-year-old woman has spent 9.09 years in school. The can find the full dataset, along with our own calculations, here.

Why the Wrong Answers are VERY Wrong

B) 6 years

Back in the 1980s this answer would have been roughly accurate. However, since then a great deal of work has been done to promote and enable women’s education around the world.

C) 3 years

The data on how long men and women have spent in school goes back to 1970, when women aged 25-34 had spent on average four years in school. It’s hard to say when the average was a low as three years, but we can say with certainty that it was at least 50 years ago.

The ignorance we found

Only 20% of our respondents managed to pick the correct answer. That’s a mere one correct answer for every five people asked.

And honestly, there were no standout performers. South Korea and Hungary led the pack for this question with 32% correct answers, but still failed to outperform random chance—or our chimps.


So what did the remaining 80% of our respondents choose? 53% opted for the middle-of-the-road answer (6 years), while more than a quarter of respondents thought the average 30-year-old woman had spent just 3 years in education.

Why do people pick the wrong answer?

This is yet another case where our respondents—all of whom were from the richest countries—fell into the trap of thinking in terms of “us” and “them”.

These are people who know that 30-year-old women in their own countries have spent a good number of years in school (14+ if they live in the UK, US, France, or Germany, which is slightly more than the average for a similarly aged man). But because they have seen the images portrayed in the media, they imagine that women throughout the rest of the world are being unfairly denied access to education.

For the most part, this assumption is completely wrong. While there are, of course, a minority of countries where the average years in school is drastically less for women than men (Afghanistan, for example) in most places the gap is relatively minor.