December 6, 2016
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The College Gender Gap Reaches Plateau For Most Groups Except Hispanics

 

 

College Gender Gap Appears to be Stabilizing with One Notable Exception, American Council on Education Analysis Finds

Washington, DC —It appears the gender gap in higher education has reached a plateau for most groups except Hispanics, where the gap between men and women is on the rise, according to a new analysis by the American Council on Education (ACE).

Gender Equity in Higher Education: 2010 is a follow-up to ACE’s original 2000 study and 2006 update. For the first time, several indicators suggest that the size of the gender gap in higher education may have stabilized. The distribution of enrollment and undergraduate degrees by gender has remained consistent since about 2000, with men representing 43 percent of enrollment and earning 43 percent of bachelor’s degrees.

The only group in which the size of the female majority does not yet appear to have stabilized is Hispanics: The percentage of Hispanic undergraduates aged 24 or younger who are male has declined from 45 percent in 1999–2000 to 42 percent in 2007–08. Hispanic young men also have the lowest bachelor’s degree attainment level of any group studied, at only 10 percent. Hispanic women appear to have pulled away from their male peers since the late 1980s, increasing their bachelor's degree attainment rate while the male rate has remained flat.

The study’s author cites immigration as a key factor in the low educational performance among Hispanics, with significant differences in educational attainment rates between Hispanics born outside the United States compared with their U.S.-born peers. For example, only 51 percent of Hispanic young adults born outside the United States have completed high school, compared with 81 percent of U.S.-born Hispanics. Male immigrants, who represent one out of every three Hispanic young adults, are at a particular disadvantage. Less than half of these young men have completed high school, and only 6 percent have earned a bachelor’s degree. In contrast, Hispanic women born in the U.S. now attain a bachelor’s degree at the same rate as African-American women (18 percent).

“Raising the attainment rate of Hispanic men—and women—looms as one of the most significant challenges facing American education,” said Jacqueline E. King, assistant vice president of ACE’s Center for Policy Analysis and author of the study. “In order for the attainment rate of Hispanic young men to rise, degree production will have to outpace population growth or immigration will have to slow.”

Gender Equity in Higher Education: 2010 analyzes data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Education. 

Other Enrollment Findings:

  • Men aged 25 or older represent just 14 percent of all undergraduates and are outnumbered two to one by women in the same age group.
  • African Americans still have the largest gender gap in enrollment; 63 percent of all African American undergraduates are women.
  • Among African Americans and American Indians, female undergraduates aged 25 or older outnumber women aged 24 or younger.
  • Among traditional-age students who are financially dependent on their parents, multiple years of data consistently show that for each racial/ethnic group, the gender gap in enrollment disappears as family income rises. 
  • Women’s share of graduate enrollment continues to increase, now reaching 60 percent overall, with tremendous variation by race/ethnicity, degree program and field of study. 

Bachelor’s Degrees 

  • Despite progress by African Americans of both genders and Hispanic women, the gaps in bachelor’s degree attainment rates between these groups and whites are larger today than they were in the 1960s and 70s. 
  • After a spike in the mid-1970s that reflected the surge in male enrollment during the Vietnam War, the share of young white men with a bachelor’s degree declined and remained flat until the early 1990s. Today, 32 percent of white men aged 25 to 29 hold a bachelor’s degree, compared with 40 percent of white women. For both white and Hispanic young men, increases in the number of degrees earned have been outpaced by population growth, resulting in flat attainment rates.

Graduate Degrees

  • Women now earn as many professional and doctoral degrees as men. Women also earn the majority of master’s degrees due to their predominance in popular fields such as education and nursing. Men continue to earn the majority of master’s degrees in engineering and business administration. 

“While the gender gap is important and should be addressed by educators and policy makers, these findings suggest the current female majority may be higher education’s new normal,” King added.

Gender Equity in Higher Education: 2010 (Item #312188) is available for purchase as a PDF for $20.00 via the ACE web site atwww.acenet.edu/genderequity2010.

Founded in 1918, ACE is the major coordinating body for all the nation's higher education institutions, representing more than 1,600 college and university presidents, and more than 200 related associations, nationwide. It seeks to provide leadership and a unifying voice on key higher education issues and influence public policy through advocacy, research, and program initiatives.

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Contact: Kellee Edmonds 
kellee_edmonds@ace.nche.edu 
(202) 939-9368

 

 



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