October 15, 2005

The educational gender gap.

David Brooks writes about the accelerating disparity between males and females in education. (Unfortunately, this link will take you to TimesSelect, which requires payment to enter.)
Women are more likely to enroll in college and they are more likely to have better applications, so now there are hundreds of schools where the female-male ratio is 60 to 40. About 80 percent of the majors in public administration, psychology and education are female. And here's the most important piece of data: Until 1985 or so, male college graduates outnumbered female college graduates. But in the mid-80's, women drew even, and ever since they have been pulling away at a phenomenal rate.

This year, 133 women will graduate from college for every 100 men. By decade's end, according to Department of Education projections, there will be 142 female graduates for every 100 male graduates. Among African-Americans, there are 200 female grads for every 100 male grads.

The social consequences are bound to be profound. The upside is that by sheer force of numbers, women will be holding more and more leadership jobs. On the negative side, they will have a harder and harder time finding marriageable men with comparable education levels....

For 30 years, attention has focused on feminine equality. During that time honest discussion of innate differences has been stifled (ask Larry Summers). It's time to look at the other half.
Women have jumped ahead of men so quickly. It's important to take account of the situation and do something about it before the gap gets worse. Unfortunately, it's risky even to bring up the subject, though it should be remembered that Larry Summers got slammed for speculating about why women were achieving less than men. Is male underachievement a less or more touchy topic?


Jeff said...

I'm an underachiever. Most of my friends are, both male and female. The smartest people that I know are waiters and bartenders. Literally, the smartest.

Masters degrees in useless things like literature or film will lead you towards a brilliant career seving expensive dinners to a lot of ambitious half-wits.

David Boyd said...

It's not that important. Men have simply figured out before women that some credentials, like a BA, are overrated.

Dana said...

You said, "It's important to take account of the situation and do something about it before the gap gets worse."
Why? No one is claiming discrimination against men by admissions offices.

Brendan said...

It's not that important. Men have simply figured out before women that some credentials, like a BA, are overrated.

That might be true if you go into business for yourself, but if you're trying to break into a white-collar environment, your stiffest competition will all have degrees. Ann isn't where she is today because she "dropped out and found herself." She's credentialed; she paid her dues. I imagine that for every Bill Gates there are thousands who wish they had stuck it out.

Ann Althouse said...

Dana: I don't support affirmative action for men, but something needs to be done to solve what is a big social problem (that affirmative action will not be able to remedy).

Ann Althouse said...

Brendan: I actually was an immense drop out from about 1969 to 1978.

Tristram said...

That might be true if you go into business for yourself, but if you're trying to break into a white-collar environment, your stiffest competition will all have degrees.

Hmm, given the dramatic changes in workplace (and, of course in higher ed) socialization since the err...agressive... elimination of anything even considering to ponder one day almost becoming offensive, perhaps the men have decided it just ain't worth it...

When a man of the left, also one of better than average credentials like Sommers can't even broach the subject, were would a neaderthal conservative Christian (like me) go?

Brendan said...

Brendan: I actually was an immense drop out from about 1969 to 1978.

You didn't bomb the Physics Bldg, did you? :-)

Jeff said...

The bottom line, from "Alpha Women, Beta Men":

It’s not as if these women ever expected their husbands to support them completely—at least a lot of them didn’t. It’s just that it never occurred to them that they might be the ones doing all the heavy lifting. And as hip and open-minded as they like to think they are, they were, after all, raised on the same fairy tale as the rest of us—the one where Prince Charming comes to the rescue of Sleeping Beauty.

Emily, a senior sales executive, admits she enjoys the control she has over Mark, a struggling photographer. But sex has become an issue.

“I can’t give up the position of empress,” she says. “Everything is in my name. When I’ve gotten really bratty, I’ve said, ‘Well fine, leave,’ knowing he can’t leave. I’ve never had such security in a relationship. There’s no risk of flight. But it’s only giving me a short-term gain. Ultimately, it’s emasculating for him.

“Mark,” she adds, “was the best sex I ever had.” But that was long ago. “We fight instead,” she says. “We’re embroiled in some weird combat. It’s like Lysistrata. I tell him, ‘Your business is going to have to get better faster.’ Until then, I’m withholding.”

When Emily comes home, she doesn’t always want to be the boss. But she says her husband no longer has the authority to take over. “I want somebody to take that power role away from me,” she explains. “Ultimately, it gets down to pretty basic stuff. It’s hard to be the power broker every day and then be the femme fatale. I’m not going to pay the bills—I feel like his mother—and then come home and suck his dick.”

Pogo said...

Being as we're the Cause of All Things Evil, it's been hard to be a white male for quite some time. However, if you mention this notion, be prepared to have the Litany of Male Sins read to you once again. No one will ever feel sorry for men, not in this country, not in this century.

That said, those universities that figure out how to attract young men to its campuses will also attract competitive female students. The marketplace might sort this out to an extent.

How is it that just a few years ago we were reading about how schools shortchange girls?

XWL said...

I think more and more employers will hire based on personal contacts, personal interview and overall impression rather than number and types of degrees.

Having a degree is no automatic indication of competence in any but the more technical minded fields, and even then many people have to unlearn the habits and assumptions they learned during their schooling.

People who are over-credentialled and under-achieving generally have more than a meaningless degree to blame for their situation.

Universities seem to be designed to produce professors and not much else, and given the finite demand for professors and the tenure system which favors older professionals over those entering the profession you end up with a lot of bewildered graduates wondering what was the point of the past 5-9 years.

So the situation in the future very well may be that you have an excess of women burdened by debts due to the loans they must repay and the lost opportunity costs of taking themselves out of the full-time workforce and you'll have a cadre of men that though they may have had to start in the mail room at age 19 showed the intelligence and drive to be promoted to a position of responsibility by age 26. So which hypothetical person is better off? The guy who had been working for 7 years gaining contacts, experience and income, or the girl who hit the books, garnered academic accolades, debts, and little knowledge of the way real business is done?

And which of these two people would be the better hire?

In otherwords the market will solve this problem, although cutting back on government subsidies for higher education will speed the process, college for everyone has proven to be a costly, unneeded and failing experiment.

Ann Althouse said...

Pogo: "How is it that just a few years ago we were reading about how schools shortchange girls?" Maybe in trying to solve one problem, they created the other. Brooks talks about that in his column.

Jeff said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jeff said...

Blogger is witholding my links, even though they appear correctly in "preview".

Here is the article I quoted from:

Alpha Women, Beta Men
Wives are increasingly outearning their husbands, but their new financial muscle is causing havoc in the home.


Btw, isn't this all something like the desired goal of second-wave feminism? The gradual establishment of a defacto matriarchy?

Ann Althouse said...

Jeff: I think you did the code wrong, because in the email copy I got of it, the entire quote was turned into a link. You must have botched the closing tag.

Gerry said...

"It's important to take account of the situation and do something about it before the gap gets worse."


Gerry said...

"what is a big social problem"

Why is it a big problem? It is what it is. Limited slots, going to those who have best earned them.

Who cares what gender they are? Even if it gives the girls bigger numbers?

Ann Althouse said...

Gerry: Women and men have to live together. We can't become entirely estranged!

Becker said...

"...Larry Summers got slammed for speculating about why women were achieving less than men." I would parse the point. He actually said that there are fewer women in "hard science" [my term] because they are genetically predisposed to be less capable. A point, by the way that seems to be supportable with scientific data.

"About 80 percent of the majors in public administration, psychology and education are female." I would argue, who cares. Those majors do not create wealth, they do not create jobs [except for otherwise unemployable pinheads] and they do not raise the standard of living. With respect to "education", it arguably the most marginal of majors. The only tangible contribution made by ed majors in the last 50 years is to dumb down general education.

Bottom line, women may graduate more prolifically than men, but the graduate in majors that marginalize them into "academic" professions and professions that do nothing to advance the overall standard of living in the world.

OddD said...

No one is claiming discrimination against men by admissions offices.

Who would dare?

The discrimination starts with boys in pre-school. Boyish behavior is discouraged and even medicated. As has been said in this blog, by the time the boy grows into the man, he knows he's not welcome, and he's probably had enough of school by that point.

Synova said...

I don't know, Ann. I do recall once getting a earful about how a bunch of little boys diving into a Pokemon discussion and Game Boy game (back when both were brand new things) symbolized the oppression of women. Boys, she said, were so danged *good* at this context free interaction and it was just so *unfair* because that was what made them successful.

Something I've realized over the years is that I take tests like a boy. Everytime I'd hear about plans to make testing better for girls the plan was exactly the type of test that I was bad at.

So what will a plan to get more men in college look like?

To a lot of people it's going to look like an attack on women. Sad but too likely true.

John(classic) said...

Will this mean the end of the great genetic experiment? For decades college men and women have found their mates at college -- eugenics as a side effect.

Sally said...

Becker -

Being an educator does nothing to raise the standards of living in the world? I'm a teacher and I beg to differ, although I certainly concede to your point that contemporary ed has failed a lot of kids. But I think the pendulum is swinging back to skills.

In regard to Ann's point - I agree, this is a potential crisis! Educated women and uneducated men? I don't think that will go over so well in most marriages. Also to consider (a previous post of Ann's) is the frequency of women to drop out of the workforce for some period of time due to child rearing. If most of the educated ones stay at home to raise kids for some time, who will be there to pick up the slack?

Troy said...

A point to support Allicent... Compulsory education in the U.S. has very few problems that concerned, involved, and non self-absorbed parents wouldn't solve.

There are idiot teachers -- just like there are idiot lawyers, etc. Most are not.

Allicent stay at home moms/dads... There may be a lag time between the shortage of workers available and the generation that will reap huge rewards from haing a parent at home.

XWL said...

Regarding Prof. Althouse's comment that 'women and men have to live together' I have to say not exactly.

I had an African studies professor who spent some time with a subsitence agricultural community and they lived in largely homosocial groups.

The men, married and single lived on one side of the camp, the women and children lived on the other.

For most of human history we have likely lived more like that then like we live today (the agricultural revolution and all the revolutions that followed are recent in terms of our existence as homo sapiens).

Men and women living together may actually be counter to our innate biology (most other higher primates live in largely homosocial groups).

I'm not advocating that we return to living separately but the notion that we must live together forgets our history as a species and also suggests that living together is something that has to be practiced and reinforced individually and culturally for it to succeed.

Nels said...

Not to sound like a raging capitalist, but are men earning less money than women? If not, what is the problem? If men are earning comparable money they must be educated in something of value, though it might be outside the humanities and it might be self-taught. Is this simply a case of women unable to find enough men who share their interests?

Peter Burnet said...

I think the main reason this is happening is that women know they are now faced with the reasonable likelihood they will have to support themselves and their children, while more and more guys just wanna have fun. Both sexes have largely rejected the idea of the outward-looking life composed of duties to others, but biology leaves women with fewer escape routes. Hitting the books hard over several years doesn't happen just out of love for the subject matter.

QitAll said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
QitAll said...

It is curious that there is such a disparity. I would like for someone to study graduating classes and find out what all the men are doing who didn't go to college and why they made the choices they made.

But, you are fooling yourself if you think degrees do not matter. There was a brief time during the Internet boom when you didn't need a degree if you were a programmer because they were so desperate to find anyone. The second the boom was over, the suits started to come out and the degrees became all critical again.

Also, the degrees can be important even if you go into business for yourself. It is harder to raise money initially if you do not have the credentials. For every Bill Gates (who had a family who was successful to back him up), there are many names of folks you have never heard of and unfortunately, probably will not hear of as they don't get the opportunities they would have with a little investment of time.

Pogo said...


In 1995 came the book "Failing at Fairness: How America's Schools Cheat Girls," by Myra and David Sadker.

A google of the title is revealing as to its downstream effect, which I would argue was massive. Their ideas changed the curriculum in grade schools even in my little town, within just a few years of its publication. Its premise fit in well with the multicultural bandwagon.

Gerry said...

"Women and men have to live together. We can't become entirely estranged!"

I do not see how an accomplishment gap causes complete estrangement. Not only do I not see a causal relationship, I do not see any sort of strong relationship there.

Ann Althouse said...

Gerry: It's a dysfunctional situation, portending immense social problems. Unmatched males at the bottom of the economic hierarchy and unmatched females at the top -- with the two groups enlarging over time. You don't worry about that?

Pogo said...

A quick google of "gender equity in schools" reveals 3.3M hits. Reading just a few of these readily demonstrates that the term actually means "promoting women/girls in the classroom.

The underlying premise, if true, should have of course revealed that women did worse than men in school. Now we see the tables turned (if that prior conclusion was ever in fact true), but I doubt there will be much outcry among women or men to do something about it.

Men are and have always been disposable. Women of recent years have never quite recognized this.

Steve said...

It doesn't say (at least in this post) what the breakdown of chosen courses of study were. That could really make a difference in overall cultural outcomes.

ziemer said...

when i was a young attorney, i was astonished at how many young black men lived off of women, whether they be mother or girlfriends, or combination thereof.

today, i am astonished at how often i see it in lily-white suburbs.

this can't not be a problem.

Ann Althouse said...

Pogo: There was also "Reviving Ophelia" a couple years before that. It was a huge topic back then. I can remember law school debates of that time, for example, criticizing the Socratic Method as discriminating against women. Ironically, there was also a big controversy about how NOT using the Socratic Method discriminates against women! Because, you know, it hurts women to call on them, but it also hurts women to have to volunteer.

ziemer said...

i remember when all the books were out about how schools shortchange girls.

meanwhile, the high school calculus classes, and the honor rolls at graduations, were almost exclusively girls.

the disconnect from reality by the establishment was (and i suppose, still is) quite vast.

Slocum said...

Why? No one is claiming discrimination against men by admissions offices.

Well, I think most of the discrimination takes place in K-12. But one way to level the playing field considerably would be to reverse recent trends and place more emphasis on college entrance exam scores (where males and females have very equal scores) and de-emphasize high-school GPA (where K-12 tilting toward females shows up in spades).

Pogo said...

Ann, from this white male's perspective, it seems that no matter what I do, I am wrong precisely because I am a white male. If I open a door for her or refrain, if I am for merit-based advancement or for preferences, if I am for "women's way of knowing" or dismissive of the concept, I know that my view can be cast as mysoginistic or racist (all these have in fact happened to me).

Heck, I was once asked by a female colleague who was attending an important meeting, "How do I look?", and I was overcome with fear. I chose to ignore the question and said, "You'll do fine." Crisis averted.

As a result, outside of this forum, I never discuss these things with men or women. The only time I tell the truth about what I think anymore is in the ballot box and at the bookstore.

JB said...

Ann, you see a growing gap between Unmatched males at the bottom of the economic hierarchy and unmatched females at the top and that this "problem" is both enlarging and dangerous.

I think the "problem" is not as great as perceived. Let's step back into the memory hole and pull out the post about female autonomy. Now, female autonomy doesn't scare me one bit, but it should probably scare females...why? Well, let's look at today's society and speculate where we're headed. A bunch of single moms have kids which the majority of which happen to be daughters (men/boys flake less on their sons), these daughters then grow into their teens and 20s and are "ahem" less monogomous than say the daughters of men who stuck around. They tend to float from lower rung men to lower rung men, these lower rung men, all the while could care less, heck there 27 dating an 18 year old, and all the while the mother is fretting about how their daughter is ruining her life.

All the while, the "elite" rung women, graduate from the gender studies program where they learned to claim for themselves a pronoun, of which they do not use, and keep credentialing themselves, as they move further up in the educational chain, they move from a gender studies class that had 5 men to 25 women, to a class of 2 men to 28 women. And then they wonder, where are all the decent men?

While all the decent men, probably went into an enginneering (oh my like something useful?!) or business program, and got out of education in 4-5 years all because I mean seriously school is mostly a waste of time.

And yet the men on the bottom rung are happy, it only takes a few "not-generally monogomous" females to satisfy a large population of men. All the while the "elite" women proclaim the glory that is the "liberation of women" from the "shackles of patriarchy" and thus encourages young women, to "claim sex as their own" and then they wonder why the educated men dating pool doesn't exist, because seriously, why should a man waste 5 years of his life going to school when he can find what he's really after without it, but of course, it was "the patriarchy" that enforced this evil mantra that women who were "less chaste" were less desirable, and yet of course this string of events is the fault of men.

Gerry said...

"It's a dysfunctional situation, portending immense social problems. Unmatched males at the bottom of the economic hierarchy and unmatched females at the top -- with the two groups enlarging over time. You don't worry about that?"

Not in the slightest. I've never believed that people have to marry within their own social strata. We would see more of this, should what you suggest continue. I don't know why I should fear that as potentially bringing severe consequences.

I also think back to not that long ago, when women were not allowed to be competitive economically. Men and women still found a way to get together. Babies were still born. Society still progressed.

In a strange way, I think that this whole phenomena may be an equalling one, rather than an unbalancing one. After all, a certain percentage of women will end up choosing to sacrifice their careers to mothering. This may be God's (or nature's, if you are so inclined) way of compensating for that.

It's not that I think the risk of the dire social effects you see looming is lower than you think, it is that I do not even see the risk at all. What would be the mechanism of these social impacts? What would the problem be? You are speaking as if it is obvious and does not even need to be spelled out.

Gerry said...

"We would see more of this"

Mea culpa, that should have said "we would see less of this", with the "this" being marrying only within a certain social or economic class.

Hell, having more coupling occur outside of economic strata would have the nice effect of helping to temper the ability of leftists to stoke class resentments to gain power.

Slocum said...

"It's a dysfunctional situation, portending immense social problems. Unmatched males at the bottom of the economic hierarchy and unmatched females at the top -- with the two groups enlarging over time. You don't worry about that?"

OMG, the problem of interest is not the whole social matchmaking system will be thrown out of whack, the problem is (and why is this so difficult to grasp?) that a significant percentage of males are being poorly served by our educational system and, as a result, are not developing to their full potential. And this is especially true of young black males for whom this is all a disaster.

And, this large and growing gap between female and male achievement is a recent phenomenon. It simply has to be put down to changes in society and our educational system and not, as many seem wont to do, to inherent inadequecies in males. Yes, males and our education system may be poorly matched. Our educational system may be discouraging and turning off males in large numbers, but that is because the system has been changed, intentionally and by design, to better accomodate the learning styles and preferences of female students. This is not some sort of secret, it was the result of decades of research and advocacy.

Kathy Herrmann said...

By and large, it semes the unstated answer to many of the k-12 education problems is either...

1) sex-segregated schools (at least to some point).

2) educational systems that incorporate learning styles of both girls and boys, perhaps favoring one and then other at times.

Ann Althouse said...

Kathy: There could be two styles of classrooms, but with individuals able to select the one they want. One would be oriented to the needs perceived as male, the other the current system (i.e., oriented to what is commonly perceived as female), and then individual students could choose the one that personally suits them. It's important to avoid sex discrimination with respect to individuals (and constitutionally required).

XWL said...

In theory offering two types of methodologies in K-12 would be advisable but in practice unworkable.

Whether society likes it or not, children enforce and act out gender roles assiduously (personal example, I had long hair and a beard at one time, and my friend's 4 year old son insisted that I was a girl, due to my flowing wavy locks, completely ignoring my facial hair, for him long hair=girl).

I can't imagine the school yard being friendly to boys that choose the femme/dominate classes or girls who choose the masculine/dominate classes. You can insist administratively that the classes are gender neutral but the perception of those classes by the students themselves will likely become very gendered and therefore subject the 'wrongly' gendered students to ostracization.

More workable (but possibly too expensive) would be rotating teachers and methodologies into the class and observing which students respond to which instruction method and let these courses run concurrently so that the segregation wouldn't be as noticeable and would give the students the opportunity to adopt the methodology that works for them on a subject by subject basis.

(one teacher teaching all subjects in their preferred manner has always seemed like a bad idea regardless of grade level, the tots don't need to run around the campus like high school students, but the teachers could)

Bruce Hayden said...

As long as many women are being admitted to law schools and medical schools, we are going to face the situation where there are a lot of women who can't find men making as much as they do.

That is because there are a whole lot of other women who want to marry "up" to the men graduating with these women. And, a lot of these guys are probably willing to take the better looking, less educated, women instead of their classmates.

So, as long as we expect that this will continue, both sexes are going to have to come to grips with this. The women are going to have to give up the idea that they can only marry "up", and the guys give up on the idea that their sole worth is as the bread winner.

I think that it will come - it is just going to take time. Remember, my mother, and the other women of her generation, getting married just after WWII, were "happy" to give up furthering their education for raising families. My (Baby Boom) generation came along and threw this out. But this really only started 35-40 years ago. That is an eye blink in human history.

(I should note that there were plenty of career women in the previous generation, those fighting in WWI, but, by and large, they were the ones who didn't have families).

Bruce Hayden said...

I do think though that the best solution for K-12 is the option of single sex classes (and, preferably schools). What I envision is that a majority will still prefer that their kids attend co-ed classes. But there are boys who don't do well in co-ed classes, and, to some lesser extent, given the recent feminine bias of those classes, some girls too. And they should be given the chance to attend single sex schools.

I should also note that the kids who would attend such at, say, K-5, might be very different from those who attend such in high school.

Ann Þø said...

Ann Althouse said...
Gerry: It's a dysfunctional situation, portending immense social problems. Unmatched males at the bottom of the economic hierarchy and unmatched females at the top -- with the two groups enlarging over time. You don't worry about that?
7:45 AM

This situation has been lived in other times and places.

exemple-a: after both wars europe had strong imbalance

Solution 1: Become part of the groupies or harem of older wiser Man (Men)
Solution 2: marry below and play pretend (a much used solution)
Solution 3: become missionary and then in other place in the world use a mix a solution 2 and 1.

Other exemple: Caribeen (Sp?) Solution 1 and 2 apply

Final exemple: USA today Be single and get baby from plastic bottles then in next generation problem is solved.

Only impediment is that a strong woman sees her heirs loosing their life with loosers or worst.

Society looses nothing but its culture because replacement population will be latinos and asians.

Is that good or part of gods'plan? Þ Þ

Anne who is sad!

Rida said...

I think that this is an awesome subject. I'm very surprised to find this in a blog. I am conducting research in this area as a Phd requirement.

ann said...

Until we begin looking at differential treatment from an early age and show just how our individual environments create different mental/emotional/social conditioning; how average stress is made up of layers of mental frictions that take up real mental energy, and how differential treatment creates real advantages for girls today, we will continue to be at a loss to explain the growing Male Crisis. The problem is more complex than school curriculum or boy chemistry.
The first problem involves two entirely different treatments of Males and Females beginning as early as one year of age and increases in differential treatment through adulthood. This is creating the growing Male Crisis in the information age. The belief Males should be strong allows more aggressive treatment of Males beginning as early as one year. This is coupled with much "less" kind, stable, verbal interaction and less mental/emotional/social support, knowledge, and skills for fear of coddling. This increases over time and continued by society from peers and teachers to others in society. This creates more social/emotional distance from parents and other authority figures who have knowledge; higher average stress that hurts learning and motivation to learn; more activity due to need for stress relief; more defensiveness and wariness of others further hindering emotional and social growth; and higher muscle tension (creating more pressure on pencil and tighter grip) that hurts writing and motivation to write. It creates much lag in development creating a learned sense of helplessness in school. This differential treatment continues on through adulthood, almost fixing many Males onto roads of failure and more escape into more short-term areas of enjoyment. Also the giving of love based on achievement that many Males thus falling behind academics then turns their attention toward video games and sports, risk taking to receive small measures of love/honor not received in the classroom.

Since girls by differential treatment are given more positive, continual, and close mental/emotional/social/ support verbal interaction and care from an early age onward this creates quite the opposite outcome for girls compared with boys. The lower the socioeconomic bracket and time in that bracket the more amplified the differential treatment from a young age and increased and more differentiated over time.