TCS Daily

Where the Education Gender Gap is Leading America

By Bill Costello - October 24, 2008 12:00 AM

As early as kindergarten, a gender gap in academic achievement is evident in American schools. Girls are excelling; boys are underachieving. The longer students are in school, the wider the gap becomes.

Boys' academic performance relative to girls has been plummeting for decades. Boys are more likely than girls to earn poor grades, be held back a grade, have a learning disability, form a negative attitude toward school, get suspended or expelled, and drop out of school.

This is not news. You've most likely heard all of this before. What may be news, however, is how the growing education gender gap is beginning to impact—and will continue to impact—colleges, the workforce, the marriage rate, and the fatherlessness rate in America.

The Changing College Campus

U.S. college enrollment is higher than ever. This is great news for Americans.

Well, actually, it's great news for women, who now outnumber men in college by 4 to 3. Forty years ago, the opposite was true: men outnumbered women in college by 4 to 3. The tipping point occurred in the late 1970s. The College of William and Mary could now be more accurately described as the College of Mary and Mary.

In absolute numbers, more men are attending college than ever before. However, the rate of increase among men has been one-sixth that of women over the past twenty years. The problem is not that more women are attending college; the problem is that men aren't keeping pace with them.

The disparity is even greater among minorities. For example, African-American women outnumber African-American men in college by 2 to 1. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that minorities will be the majority in America by 2050. As minorities make up an increasing share of the citizenry, the college gender gap will grow even wider.

Not only are men less likely than women to go to college, they're also less likely to graduate once there. And the ones who do graduate are less likely than their female cohorts to do it within four years. Tom Mortenson, senior scholar at the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education, warned that if statistical trends were to continue at their current rate there would be no men graduating from college after 2067.

While college enrollment is growing, college graduation rates have remained stagnant, which means that more and more students are dropping out of college; mostly they're men.

Forty years ago, 1 in 5 Americans in their mid-20s were college dropouts. Now it's 1 in 3. That represents a lot of wasted potential.

It turns out that when the gender ratio on campus tips decidedly toward women, both men and women become less attracted to that campus. Men don't want to enroll in what is perceived as a women's college, and women want men around to date.

This is presenting a dilemma for college admissions officers because most of the applicants are women and the average female applicant has a higher G.P.A., participates in more extracurricular activities, and writes a better essay than the average male applicant. So admissions directors must decide to either admit less-qualified men or risk losing men and women who both desire a gender balance on campus. Increasingly, they are choosing the former.

Perhaps many men are dropping out of college because they can't keep up with the diligent, accomplished women they're competing against.

The Changing Workforce

Hillary Clinton came as close as one possibly could to becoming the Democratic nominee for president. Sarah Palin made history as the Republican Party's first female candidate for vice president. Nancy Pelosi was recently elected as the first female speaker of the House. There are now more female senators, congresswomen, and female state legislators than ever before.

What's going on? Are women beginning to take over America? Not really, but they are getting there.

Women are having a growing influence on the fields of law and government. They represent half of the law school students and one third of the lawyers. By 2050, they're projected to represent 60 percent of the law school students.

These changes are not just happening in law and government. Women constitute half of the medical school students and one fourth of the physicians. They're projected to constitute 70 percent of the medical school students and most of the physicians by 2050.

According to a U.S. Census Bureau report, women are starting businesses at twice the rate of men. They're also rapidly rising into managerial and administrative positions.

In short, women are becoming richer and more powerful—and this is a good thing for America. Fueling this trend is the growing number of women earning college degrees.

More education pays off in a big way. Those with a bachelor's degree earn, on average, nearly twice what those with just a high school diploma earn in a year and roughly $1 million more over a lifetime.

Among 25-to-29-year-olds, 33 percent of women have earned at least a bachelor's degree compared with just 23 percent of men. This is the first generation of women to be more educated than their male counterparts.

This shift means that women will increasingly get the highly paid jobs while men will experience a drop in earnings. This is already happening. Men in their 30's are the first generation to earn significantly less income than their fathers' generation did at the same age.

As jobs that require little education—such as construction—increasingly shrink, more and more men will become unemployed. In the current economy, unemployment is higher and rising faster for men than for women.

Some may argue that it's still a man's world. After all, men still wield more power and earn more money than women. This is all true—for now. But a change is coming.

The reason why it's still a man's world is because previous generations of men earned more college degrees than previous generations of women. However, as women's academic achievement soars, the male advantage will gradually end and the female advantage will begin.

The Changing Marriage Rate

Fewer and fewer Americans are getting married. Married couples now represent a minority of all American households. For the first time ever, most women are now living without a husband.

Driving this trend is the growing ratio of college-educated women to college-educated men. As the ratio continues to grow, there will be increasingly fewer college-educated women who will be able to find college-educated men to marry.

Many of these women are choosing not to marry at all rather than marry non-college-educated men who are likely to earn significantly less than they do.

At the same time, many non-college-educated men are not interested in marrying college-educated women. A study led by Columbia University economics professor Ray Fisman found that these men tend not to pursue women who they perceive as smarter than themselves.

Consequently, non-college-educated men are finding it increasingly more difficult to get married. Thirty years ago, only 6 percent of men in their early 40s without college degrees had never married. Now it's 18 percent and still rising.

The problem is that there are fewer and fewer women without college degrees for them to marry. And even these women are striving to marry college-educated men with better financial prospects.

Also, it's becoming increasingly difficult for a husband without a college degree to support a wife as blue-collar jobs move to low-wage countries.

This is not to say that college-educated women and non-college-educated men never get married. But these marriages tend not to last. Marriages are more likely to end in divorce when wives earn more than their husbands.

This is increasingly becoming a problem. Thirty years ago, wives earned more than their husbands in 16 percent of marriages. Now it's 25 percent and continuing to rise. By 2050, nearly half of the married women will earn more than their husbands.

Wives who earn more than their husbands are still often saddled with most of the household chores and child-care responsibilities.

Being a full-time or even a part-time stay-at-home dad is not a role that men are actively stepping into. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are currently 5.6 million stay-at-home moms and only 143,000 stay-at-home dads.

The traditional marriage wherein the husband brings home the bacon and the wife fries it up in a pan is becoming less common. Even more uncommon is the marriage in which the wife brings home the bacon and the husband fries it up in the pan.

Very few husbands are making the choice to shoulder half or more of the household chores and child-care responsibilities—even if they are unemployed or only working part-time. When a wife is the family breadwinner and has to come home to more than her share of the chores, she often decides that she would be better off without a husband.

For better or for worse, the future is not bright for the institution of marriage.

The Changing Fatherlessness Rate

The rise in the number of single American women has given birth to another trend: the rise in single motherhood. The nonmarital birth rate rose sharply from 18 percent in 1980 to 39 percent in 2006. According the National Center for Health Statistics, this trend is not being fueled by teenage mothers, but rather by women in their 30s and 40s.

Women are increasingly choosing single motherhood because men, we hear, have nothing to offer. Books like Peggy Drexler's "Raising Boys Without Men: How Maverick Moms are Creating the Next Generation of Exceptional Men" contribute to this growing perspective.

Do men have nothing to offer? The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that children from fatherless homes are more likely to commit suicide, run away, have behavioral disorders, abuse alcohol, use drugs, commit rape, and end up in prison. This is true regardless of the mother's age, race, or socioeconomic status.

Clearly, fathers matter and have much to offer their children. So do mothers. On average, children raised by both parents experience fewer problems than children raised by single mothers.

Our sons are seeing fewer and fewer male role models in their lives. At school, 91 percent of elementary teachers and 65 percent of secondary teachers are females. At home, more boys than ever are living without a father.

Some single mothers recruit males—uncles, grandfathers, friends—to serve as role models for their sons. While helpful, these men are no substitute for a father who has a vested interest in his son's life.

The rise in fatherlessness is a vicious cycle: fatherless boys are twice as likely to drop out of school; they earn less money without a college education; women are increasingly becoming more educated than men and aren't interested in marrying men who earn less money than they do; so the number of single women rises; they choose single motherhood; fatherlessness rises; the cycle starts all over again.

The National Center for Fathering conducted a poll that found that 72 percent of Americans think that fatherlessness is the most significant family or social problem facing our nation. America is the world's leader in fatherless families.

America's Future

In short, the education gender gap that starts in kindergarten is leading to a nation of undereducated men who are contributing less and less to the economy and the family structure. This will adversely impact our nation's productivity, prosperity, and society.

It's in the interest of women as well as men to turn this situation around. It's already too late to make up for the generations of boys whose educational attainment did not live up to its potential. However, it's not too late to help the current generation of boys.

They deserve better. So do their mothers and future wives.

Bill Costello, training director of Making Minds Matter, teaches parents and teachers the best strategies for educating boys. He can be reached at or



Looking at the CORRECT numbers...
Joanie posted a comment that made reference to a U.S. Census report entitled "Women and Men in the United States: March 2002."

Then she wrote: "If we're going to discuss the 4/3 and 3/4 ratio of males/females who attend college, then I think we need to be more specific about how we arrived at those numbers. For example, if you look at the breakout in the section "Sex Ratios by Race and Hispanic Origin: 2002", you will find fewer men per 100 women in every group but the Hispanics. And one possible reason as to why there are more Hispanic males may be the fact that a percentage of them are here alone, and their families are back home. At any rate, putting all the groups together can make your data look different."

The "Sex Ratios by Race and Hispanic Origin: 2002" figure found on page two of the report--the one Joanie is referring to--has absolutely nothing to do with the gender imbalance in college. The figure represents the sex ratios of populations. The figure shows that there are more male Hispanics than female Hispanics. It shows NOTHING about college enrollment or graduation with regard to Hispanics--or any other race, for that matter.

That information, as reported by the American Council on Education, can be found at:

The title of this report is: "College Enrollment Gender Gap Widens for White and Hispanic Students."

Bottom line: The college gender gap DOES affect the Hispanic population.

Old data
The problem, Joanie, is that you are looking at data from 2002. It's now 2008, and things have changed.

New data
Here is a report from the U.S. Department of Education from 2005:

Figure 2 clearly shows that for whites, blacks, and Hispanics, more females than males participate in postsecondary education--and the gap is increasingly getting wider.

are (by tendency) the movers and shakers of a society. They tend to look ahead sooner and farther than females. They see the writing on the wall and have for a while--the writing of doom for this dying society.

Our society caters to females through affirmitive action. It caters to them through a terribly distorted legal system. These qualities are harmful distortions of the foundation of protecting women and children from harm that our society is built upon.

As a friend of mine--who just so happens to be female, and is in her early 20s and running a successful business along with her best friend, who is male--put it to me, "College is only for those who need a boss." For the most part, she's correct.

Males have never been as likely by tendency to conform as females. Why don't we pay attention to the (lack of) quality in our present educational systems? Who, with any brains, wants to learn this rubbish? I know there are plenty of bright females who don't want a thing to do with this garbage either, but it's not a female group-tendency to be the more "daring" group (and it never will be). It's males who are more likely to drop out of school, then start their own Internet business and make millions before they're 25.

The educational system caters to the female, not the male. It is limp, it's overly concerned with babysitting and so-called "discipline", and it slams conformity into people's heads. How does this cater to the female, you ask? Males in school are completely discouraged from using their maleness to achieve. They're not supposed to be aggressive, theirs is not to question why, females should be on the football team with them, and nowadays a little boy can be suspended for kissing a little girl on the cheek. If a boy has a lot of energy he's likely to be put on some mind-numbing drug to "treat" him. This can happen to a high-energy little girl, too, but it's not at all as likely.

School has become far too stupid to stimulate any very bright minds, regardless of which gender they are. But since the boys are the ones more on the edge of pioneering (as a group), they are the ones, naturally, who are most harmed by the travesty of our indoctrination--oops, I mean, education--system.

And course there are more men in the higher income brackets than women, in spite of the poorer school performance. Men are more willing to do the kinds of work that earn bigger money and, as I pointed out, are the more likely to come up with something innovative that will bring in the big bucks. This is neither good nor bad; it's just the way things are. But our sick society is using legalities and prescription drugs to try to kill off this nature.

why did you make the assumption that I was writing "to" you?

I made a general assaying/commentating statement. And I also made it very clear, or tried to, that I spoke of tendencies, not of any "hard and fast laws".

I have no doubt in my mind that you are exactly as you describe yourself to be. And--I never did.

America's Future?
I'm glad I'm not part of it. America's future is in the toilet.

...are pigs.

Feminists....women who want to castrate all the pigs.

'Nuff said.

This will not continue indefinitely...
Remember the old saw "the hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world"?

Well folks,its true. Each and every one of us is only here a short time. Someday, I'll be gone-you'll be gone. Yeah we all know we'll die, but don't really believe it and so we don't always follow the latin injunction "momemnto mori".

Our present financial situation should give us pause before we just extrapolate mathematical models and relationships from past data and assume it will direct FUTURE events.

First, the more education a woman has, the fewer children she is likely to have-and while I'm not suggesting its desireable for women to pass on education, there's a very good chance that the bright young lass eagerly pursuing an MD, JD or Phd will have one, two or NO kids.

By the time she hits 30, she'll already be less fertile. In today's college culture, easy virtue means knowing more men in the biblical sense and probable extended contraceptive use.

Both tend to impact reproductive health and fertility unfavorably. Biology just doesn't respect individual ambition. And no, its not impossible to have kids at 30, 35 or even 40, even if there was a wild youth, but the risks go up. In a million women, its significant. In short, we are systematically engaging in dysgenics by ensuring our brightest women systematically reduce their contribution or remove themselves altogether from the gene pool.

Of course this isn't universal. There are women and cultures where motherhood is valued. Those women and places will have more and more intelligent children. They will exert more influence and perhaps rule. The great irony? The contraceptive mentality that the racist Margaret Sanger thought would produce smarter (and lets be honest, whiter) children is having the exact opposite effects.

If anybody things advanced degrees are a ticket to happiness, they should meet one woman I know. She's in her late 50's. Until a few years ago, her Master's degree provided positions of some status and accomplishment. However, something went wrong a little less than a decade ago. I don't know why, but I know she was unemployed for a couple years and finally accepted a position of sinificantly less status and responsibility than she was used to. Her entire life is memories of past professional accomplishments. No husband, no kids, just a job she finds contemptibly beneath her advanced education. Funny thing how a 10 or 20 year old Masters degree is obselete.

Wait there's more , women who devote themselves to careers will find out what men have known since industrial employment became the widespread means of making a living. Somewhere in middle age, the faculties begin a slow decline. Memory, vision, hearing and "uptake" that we take for granted basically until our late 30's, can't be summoned effortlessly at will.

We can accomodate with glasses, meeting notes and electronic reminders with only minimal loss of efficiency at first. Still, don't kid yourself about all that 50 is the new 30 crap. Most 50 year olds hold the book further and further away and I haven't seen a single ad for corrective laser vision where the smiling patient looks 30.

But even if you massage your brain with lots of Ginko- there's still going to be this bright young upstart, equipped with the latest technical skills, digital from birth or whatever label will replace that one. He or she will use the latest gizmo like you use a standard phone-effortlessly and efficiently and will make up in vigor what he or she lacks in maturity.

The upstart has your job in their crosshairs....

I think the point was...
I think my point was that the "choice" is limited, that its a an option with an expiration and an indefinite expiration at that. Worse, you are making that choice without benefit of full information and in fact, without a lot of misinformation.

Such a "choice" affects others. Lost in the debate is how children are necessary for the continuity of society and painful it is to intentionally deny the previous generation of the joy of grandparenthood. Do we really have "reproductive freedom"? No way.

I'm old enough to remember professors and fellow students laughing at women who went to college with the intention of being engaging wives and intelligent mothers as only being interested in "MRS" degrees. You can tell an 18 year old anything, especially when you've presented a college degree as the be all and end all of life. So, when some indoctrinating professor tells young women (and young men) that having a family as a lesser vocation than pursuing an education, its a misinformed choice.

If your "education" is so invasive-its not a choice at all, its oppression. I have to laugh when I see pictures of some aging feminist carrying a sign that says "my body my choice" or one of my personal favorites "if [insert clerical or ecclesial insult here] could become pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament". There's more than a subtle bit of irony in some post-menopausal childless woman frothing about the mouth about legalized abortion implicitly claiming to have some special insight into the matter.

The choice is especially limited now that colleges have no fiscal restraint. Despite billions, if not trillions in sports revenue, grants, bequests, tax preferences and direct subsidies-the price of degrees continually outpaces infation. Believe me, if you think people were "tricked" into buying mortgages they couldn't afford, think how many kids are being hoodwinked into six-figure student loans with payments as much as housing - only to enter a job market that is in a constant state of upheavel. They are nothing but humn annuities to support the lifestyle of comfort and leisure that is the expected entitlement of the professioriate.

I ceased my flirtation with being a libertarian when I looked at how adherents of radical personal autonomy seem to be able to exercise very destructive choices. The assumption that we are all informed rational benign free agents is nonsense. We may need to be treated mostly as such to avoid tyranny, but the maslovian hierachy usually ends long before self-actulization. When you think of the adherents to the legalization of marijuana, assisted suicide, you name it-they have a very weird definition of liberty.

Of course, in the new Obamanation, I'm sure we'll all be free to choose [insert object of sentence here, to kill the defenseless]and we'll be damn sure that "society" pays for your choice. We'll pay for your contraception, your abortion and we'll relieve you of the unfair burden of paying for your kids food, daycare, housing, education and hell I'm sure we'll throw in lunch too. All the better to create a nicely programmed generation who knows "daddy" government will take care of you.

For me, as long as taxes are set according to political whim, as long judges issue writs that are the real source of "disenfranchisement", as long as the government frustrates the right to be educated without its blessing,and picks winners and losers in the marketplace there's no liberty, no real freedom. Every "libertarian" missive that sets aside these real and substantial impairments on my liberty, to promote important things like legalizing marijuana, is nothing more than a distracting tantrum thrown by an adolescent. Do you think its an accident that even with an experienced candidate like Bob Barr, the LP effect on elections diminishes election?

From what you've said, your situation is different than the one in the previous post-yes, infirmity came earlier and more unexpectedly, but you adapted, because you had some sense of self worth beyond a sheepskin and that was the point-anything that maintains you are only as good as your academic credentials is a crime against your dignity as a human being.

We are not equal
If men respect women for who and what they are-that's step one. Step two is women respecting us for who and what we are, certainly in popular culture, that's not happening. I can think of 4 TV characters Homer Smpson, Bill Miller, Jum Belushi's character, and on more- in each case the guy is boastful, lazy, inept, slothful, stupid or oblivious. The wives are overworked, underappreciated, aggrieved.

Hey Hollyweird morons, get a new template already, that's as worn out as lawyers doctor or police shows.

If it weren't for my special interest in historical DVD's, February 17, 2009 wouldn't be worth the trip to Circuit for the box for me.

We are not equal. We are compliments.

I think the "feminist ideal" and its counterthesis was very well described in the cult dystopic novel "Shore of Women" by Pamela Sargent.

Makes perfect sense
My high school sweetheart were friends before we dated. That relationship lasted seven years.

And no, I was not teasing you about the 'men are pigs' observation. Well, at least not deliberately. But thanks for the feedback that gives me more knowledge on what buttons to push!

Marjon gets the Zyndryl's Button Pushing Prize, I am afraid
...Marjon can even beat Roy and Bob Jones at that.

Marjon's Grand Zyndryl Button Pushing of This Month was: "But you get to keep pets!" as a valid argument that housing is a productive investment. That got me all discombobulated for sure. I even quoted that to some of my friends.

I believe that was Marjon. Or was it you?

Regardless, I'm just very lucky Marjon and I are usually on the same side most of the time. :)

"One reason is because they must. Their husband's salaries frequently do not cover all expenses."

So then have really been given "career opportunities" or forced employment? The promise of feminism was woman should be ABLE to obtain A CAREER, not be REQUIRED to have a JOB.

"Secondly, I've seen first hand what it's like for a women when her husband dies unexpectedly and she must make ends meet without the husband's salary. The best protection is for the mother to have a good education and a solid job so that she that can support her family."

Actually, there is a device for that purpose, its life insurance. When one parent dies, the children require more of the remaining parent's time and attention. I am intimately familiar with that occurance and the emotional needs of children who've lost a parent. The kids need to know Mom or Dad is available, not in a meeting or travelling on business.

You don't need a good job in that case, you need the flexibility that comes with an in-force life insurance policy that pays at least 8 to 10 times your annual salary. Yes,someone making 50,000 should be covered for half a mil.

"Please don't tell me it doesn't happen, because it does. My mother lived it. She ended up working two jobs to keep the house running. Neither side of the family offered her so much as a penny or a moment of their time to help keep things going."

Your mother's valor was admirable, but I refer you to my prior answer on insurance.

I should also like to mention that I know of many men who have chosen not to have children, but only one woman. So, I would appreciate it if you would please not lay all the blame at our feet.

Absolutely. Men (or should I say boys) are "enjoying" extended adolescencence. I concur. However the law grants sole dominion over the ultimate choice to the woman. Here's the ugly reality-its only the culture that exists that allows the women to think they are loved or "in a committed relationship" with a man who refuses to give them the opportunity to be mothers. A positive answer to "Do you love me enough to care for me and the children we may have as the result of the expression of that love" used to be understood as part of "I do", but since fewer young people are bothering with "I do" -I'm not sure what you get with nothing but a shared address.

Marjon views EVEN drug addiction as contributing to macro economic productivity
See this (incomplete) chain.

As a practical matter- its been done throughout history
However, there's a certain amount of common experience that a couple needs to share. I dates a woman 9 years my junior-I was 31 and she was 22. At one point, her public school pablum puke came up - she told me Carter was a great president. My response was pretty succinct. If I was playing with Barbie, instead of looking for a job in 1978, I'd have thought so too. Obviously that didn't last long.

On the other hand, one of the happiest couples I know is 17 years apart.

They don't kid themselves though. He'll be in his 60's when his son is a teenager. The better half is preparing herself for a quarter century of widowhood.

The actuarial tables catch up with everybody. Incidentally, we're now finding out that children of older fathers are at greater risk for having kids with health issues.

I don't think there's a "solution". I think the future belongs to the hand that rocks the cradle.

Why the imbalance
As USA education becomes increasingly soft, language and emotion based, it becomes less attractive to males. Guys are more interested in science and math than gals. In this sense education has been feminized.
Education has also been explicitly feminized. Required "sensitivity training", courses in "women's studies", and other such tripe: it's no wonder that guys are repelled by an environment that considers them evil.
This is all part of the modern leftist orthodoxy, and it's accelerating.

Usually I don’t comment on this issue as it’s too damn personal hence subjective. Still, here I go
For the past 18 years, I have had (and continue to have) the pleasure of the attention, adulation and love showered by my wife who is almost 10 years younger to me.

I agree with you that there may be people out there who would find this idea absolutely appalling.

But I find it very APPEALING for various reasons, including for the reasons you cited.

That said, I certainly can not pronounce it as a "solution" to any "problem", as the issue is too damn personal hence subjective.

Usually I don’t comment on this issue as it’s too damn personal hence subjective. Still, here I go
You mean to say that couples must share the same common CORE values and NOT just have certain amount of common experience, don’t you?

Then, the age difference is irrelevant, though there is no doubt that actuarial tables catch up with most people.

But then, one can’t take such an important decision as who to marry based on statistics and actuarial tables, can one? After all, there is no guarantee for life in nature.

It’s my opinion that couples should marry based on the matching of CORE values and enjoy each day of their life together as it comes, and still prepare for life without the partner.

It is NEVER too LATE for Education
"It's already too late to make up for the generations of boys whose educational attainment did not live up to its potential."

It is NOT "too late" for education.

Currently, the education industry has three primary dyfunctions:
1) It is oriented mostly to the young. Since technologies are and should constantly advance, a significant component of the education industry should be "re-education". Optimal education is a lifetime pursuit, and lifetime education enhances productivity which lifts prosperity.
2) Education is one of the two most inflationary industries in the last 2 decades (the other being healthcare). The restructure of education towards lifetime learning (primarily at the college+ level) that also makes proper use to remote learning opportunities presented by current technologies, will result in a more effiecient educational industry.
3) Education is focused on memory. A better approach is to teach learning and implementation skills.

Young males may reject education (as it is currently practiced) because it is "stupid" (from several teenagers I know). If proper edcuation is developed, current adults will have new opportunities for self-improvement. And eventually these sex based educational gaps will be eliminated.

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