The College Gender Paradox

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The College Gender Paradox

If you look around a corporate campus, you'll notice more men than women. But if you stroll around a typical American college campus, you'll see more women than men.

According to U.S. Department of Education estimates, this year (for the tenth year in a row) women will earn more college degrees than men at every level of higher education.

As recently pointed out on the Carpe Diem blog of the American Enterprise Institute, for every 100 degrees earned at each level by men, women will earn:1

  • 161 associate degrees
  • 131 bachelor's degrees
  • 152 master's degrees
  • 108 doctoral degrees

That works out to women receiving 142 college degrees of all types for every 100 received by men. Put another way, women will earn a total of 2.25 million degrees compared to just 1.59 million total degrees for men. That's a difference of more than 660,000 college degrees.

Why is this happening?

One reason why fewer men are entering and graduating from college today is societal: Males and females are treated differently from the time they enter the U.S. education system.

As sociology professors Thomas A. DiPrete and Claudia Buchmann explain in their book, The Rise of Women: The Growing Gender Gap in Education and What It Means for American Schools, "Our research shows that boys' underperformance in school has . . . to do with society's norms about masculinity . . . Boys involved in extracurricular cultural activities such as music, art, drama, and foreign languages report higher levels of school engagement and get better grades than other boys. But these activities are often denigrated as unmasculine."2 As a result, male students report less interest in school, and they receive lower average grades than female students.

Another reason is economic: As reported in Fortune, men tend to drop out of college to avoid falling too deep into student loan debt.3

For a study called "Gender, Debt, and Dropping Out of College" in the journal Gender & Society, professors from Ohio State University and Pacific Lutheran University studied research data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, including interviews with about 9,000 young men and women.4

The study found that when male students accumulate $12,500 in tuition loans, they "are more likely to be discouraged" than women, and to abandon their expensive studies for a full-time job. While female students may feel just as concerned about the growing burden of student debt, the inequality in the workforce makes dropping out less attractive to women.

That's because men are more likely to be hired for high-paying jobs as construction workers, truck drivers, and factory laborers...

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