Friday, June 12, 2009

Why Women Are Becoming More Dominant in Higher Education

There's a widespread belief that women don't get a fair shake in higher education, and, therefore, that policies need to be adjusted to allow them a better chance at being hired and promoted. Christine Hoff Sommers (of the American Enterprise Institute) argues that, on the contrary, men are the ones who are discriminated against. She makes some important points, and the article is well worth reading.

I will argue that some of the stats she uses aren't put into context. From the post:
Perry shows that men are now on the wrong side of the degree gap at every stage of education. Here are his figures for the class of 2009:

Associate’s degrees: 167 for women for every 100 for men.

Bachelor’s degrees: 142 for women for every 100 for men.

Master’s degrees: 159 for women for every 100 for men.

Professional degrees: 104 for women for every 100 for men.

Doctoral degrees: 107 for women for every 100 for men.

Degrees at all levels: 148 for women for every 100 for men.
The disparity in Associate's degrees is easily explained by the differences in jobs that workding-class men and women hold. Women tend to cluster in jobs for which a license (and training) is a requirement. Men, on the other hand, are likelier to work in jobs that offer on-the-job training (factory work, construction work, trades work).

The rather large Master's degree differences can be explained by several female-heavy professions that encourage/require Master's for advancement - nursing, teaching, social work. Increases in pay are limited, except for advanced degrees. That the difference isn't due to the thirst for education is shown by the similarities in Doctoral degrees. For women, getting that degree would take a lot of time and money, for very little pay-off.

In short, these are rational decisions.

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