A significant change in American higher education is that women now outnumber men in college: as of 2005, women comprised 56 percent of undergraduates and 59 percent of graduate students in the United States. DiPrete and Buchmann will address the evolution of this gender gap from 1940 to the present, its causes, and its potential consequences for labor markets, marriage and family formation.
“We’ve moved more toward a gender-neutral world,” DiPrete said. “Because girls perform better than boys, they attain more.”
Data from the decennial censuses and the American Community Survey shows that the male gain in college completion rose until the 1970s, then reached a plateau, the researchers found. They noted that in 1969, Yale and Princeton first admitted females and Vassar first admitted males.
The current gender gap is the largest in American history and exists across all fields of study. This research will pinpoint where in the educational trajectory the educational gender gaps emerge, and describe current gender differences in high-school dropout rates, GED receipt, college enrollment, and completion of associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees and advanced degrees. The result: An informative, current statistical portrait of educational attainment for both the total U.S. population and for five race/ethnic groups (whites, blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans) in the U.S.
Additionally, using data from the census, General Social Survey and various panel datasets sponsored by the National Center for Education Statistics, DiPrete and Buchmann will address some causes of the rising female favorable advantage in educational attainment. These will include the changing impact of family background; the impact of more female college graduates on specific educational transitions over time; the changing connection between educational performance and educational attainment; and whether men’s higher rates of incarceration and military service are related to their lower rates of college completion.
They will also touch on the consequences for marriage and the labor market. “Going back to elementary school, girls put more effort in school,” DiPrete said. Boys have a slight advantage in math test scores, as do girls in reading test scores, he said, but as girls have more advanced social behavioral skills, boys fall further behind in school. “And grades, not test scores, matter in a corporate setting.”