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The Educational Gender Gap is Getting Wider

Women are considerably outpacing men in college attendance and degree attainment, according to a new research report commissioned by The Business Roundtable and conducted by Northeastern University's Center for Labor Market Studies.

The report shows that after lagging behind men in the 1960s and 1970s, women achieved equality in college attendance rates in 1978 and have done better ever since. Nearly two million more women now are attending colelge than men and are acquiring far more certificates and associates', bachelor's, and master's degrees. The gaps prevail for all major race/ethnic groups, age groups, and states; moreover, the Center expects the gap to widen over the current decade.

Highlights from the report, entitled The Growing Gender Gaps in College Enrollment and Degree Attainment in the U.S. and Their Potential Economic and Social Consequences, include the following:

  • For each year from 1993 to 2000 nationally, the number of full-time and part-time female college students exceeded the number of men, with the ratios ranging from 123 women per 100 men in 1993 to 128 women per 100 men in 2000. In the latter year, 1.87 million more women than men were enrolled. Projections by the U.S. department of Education indicate that by 2010, the gender gap will grow to 138 women enrolled for every 100 men.
  • In 2000, the gender gap was highest among African Americans (166 women per 100 men in college), with Hispanics secon (130-100) and whites third (126-100).
  • Gender gaps exist within every major age group. There were 132 women for every 100 men aged 25-29 in college in 2000; the ratio rose to 173-100 for persons 35 and older.
  • Enrollment gender gaps exist in all states. In 2000, the five states with the widest enrollment gaps were maine (154 women per 100 men), Delaware (151-100), Alaska (149-100), Mississippi (144-100), and South Carolina (143-100). The five states with the smallest gaps in 2000 were Utah (98-100), North Dakota (102-100), Colorado (115-100), and Montana and Indiana (each with 116-100).

In addition to enrollment gaps, women also stay in college long enough to acquire degrees at substantially higher rates than men. Officials at the Center noted that the growing gender gaps in degree attainment are quite astonishing particularly when viewed in the context of the substantial economic advantages for men to acquire post-secondary credentials. Key findings on degree attainment include the following:

  • In 1999-2000, women received 151 associate's degrees for every 100 awarded to men, 133 bachelor's degrees for every 100 awarded to men, and 138 master's degrees for every 100 awarded to men.
  • The degree attainment gender gap will continue to widen. The National Center for Education Statistics has projected that by the 2009-2010 school year, women will receive 173 associate's degrees and 142 bachelor's degrees for every 100 awarded to men.
  • Gender gaps in degree attainment exist among every major race/ethnic group, but are largest for African Americans. In 1999-2000, the number of bachelor's degrees awarded to women for every 100 men ranged from 117 among Asians to 131 among whites to a high of 192 among African Americans.
  • Women earned more associate's and bachelor's degrees in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
  • Women continue to lag in obtaining professional and doctorate degrees, but the gaps are closing fast. In 1976-77, there were only 23 women with professional degrees for every 100 men; in 1999-2000, the ratio was 81-100 and the projected ratio for 2010 is 97-100. In 1976-77, there were only 32 women with doctorate degrees for every 100 men; in 1999-2000, the ratio was 79-100.

The report can be viewed in its entirety at