Women have Surpassed Men in Educational Attainment, Now Make Up Almost 60% of College Students
According to enrollment data from the National Student Clearinghouse, a nonprofit research organization, at the close of the 2021 academic year, women made up 59.5% of college students in America, an all-time high, and men only 40.5%.That's a dramatic change from the late 1960s when about 58% of college students were men. Today, many more women are making the decision to pursue higher education while the percentage of men going off to college has remained flat.
Because of this trend, women of all ages have now surpassed men in educational attainment. In 1981, 21.1% of men in America had obtained a four-year college degree compared to 13.4 % of women. Today, 38.3% of women have graduated compared to 36.7% of men.
And, the trend is widespread, impacting most developed nations.
Hechinger Report: "The number of women in college around the globe has decisively overtaken the number of men. That includes in almost all of the 36 member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, and in 39 of 47 countries of the UN Economic Commission for Europe, which extends to central and western Asia."
The reasons for all this are a bit murky, probably involving a number of factors. Some commentators, like those at the Wall Street Journal, paint it as a male crisis of faith in higher education, but that misses the point. The percentage of young men choosing college has remained stable at 37-39% over the last decade, while the percentage of women seeking a higher education has increased substantially. So, the crux of this story isn't about men loosing faith, it's about women and their desire to achieve more than past generations. Here are some reasons why:
1 The increase in women at college is the result of having greater choices than previous generations. Expectations regarding marriage and children have changed and women are taking advantage of their freedom to pursue careers that require a college degree.
2. Starting in the 1960s, women have had greater protection against job discrimination by employers. They could anticipate a more even playing field regarding access to high-paying careers for college graduates.
3. Men who decide to skip college have greater opportunities to get good jobs in fields such as construction, factory work, trucking, trades [plumbers and electricians], and the military. Women without a college education have relatively fewer opportunities to earn a living wage. Women still predominate in careers like teaching, social work, and nursing, but they all require a college degree today.
4. More women are pursuing careers in fields that were all but closed to them in the past like medicine, law, business management, and computer programming. Each requires many years of education.
5. In The Homecoming of American College Women: The Reversal of the College Gender Gap, researchers Claudia Goldin, Lawrence Katz, and Ilyana Kuziemko offer some developmental explanations for the change, supported by studies of male and female high school students.
"Another aspect in the reversal of the college gender gap, rather than just its elimination, is the persistence of behavioral and developmental differences between males and females. Boys often mature more slowly than girls. In grades K-12, boys tend to have a higher incidence of behavioral problems (or lower level of non-cognitive skills) than girls. Girls spend more time doing homework than boys. These behavioral factors, after adjusting for family background, test scores, and high school achievement, can explain virtually the entire female advantage in getting into college for the high school graduating class of 1992, the authors figure. It allowed "girls to leapfrog over boys in the race to college." Similarly, teenage boys, both in the early 1980s and late 1990s, had a higher (self-reported) incidence of arrests and school suspensions than teenage girls."
Women have been empowered by a growing number of well educated role models within the highest echelons of industry, government, the professions, and the sciences. They have momentum and the glass ceilings have been largely shattered. With the right education, they can achieve anything and even those aggravating pay differentials will disappear when they have taken their seats in America's boardrooms.
Oddly, some men seem a bit threatened by this, but it should be something that we all celebrate. America is stronger when all of its citizens achieve to their potential, unfettered by anachronistic cultural barriers.
By: Don Lam & Curated Content