NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

More Women Than Men Getting College Degrees

May 12, 2000

Thirty years ago, college was a male preserve -- by about 55 percent to 45 percent. Today, it's a woman's world by about the same margin -- and the spread is projected to widen in coming years.

  • Although men are going to college in greater numbers than ever, women are now earning at least 130,000 more bachelor's degrees every year than are men.
  • Women now outnumber men in graduate schools -- and they are closing in on male majorities in professional schools.
  • College women still get more degrees in the social sciences and the liberal arts.
  • Even in business, women go into finance, accounting and human resources, rather than sales, marketing and manufacturing.

Experts see at least two important implications in these trends.

Ray Hilgert, professor of management and industrial relations at Washington University, notes that by concentrating on liberal arts, women are setting themselves up for jobs which pay less than those that men are educating themselves for. He calls this "the glass wall" effect -- self imposed and compounded when women have children and decide to drop out of the work force, even temporarily.

Secondly, the soaring numbers of women graduates could translate into a population in which women are substantially better educated than men. David C. Geary, a professor of psychology at the University of Missouri at Columbia, contends that women will face a shrinking "mating pool" of educated males to select from. He foresees that "the competition for the men who are going to do very well will be very intense." Options for women who lose out, he says, will be to marry men of lesser attainments and prospects than their own -- or not to marry at all.

Source: Susan Thomson (St. Louis Post-Dispatch), "Female Majorities on Campus Change Higher Education," Washington Times, May 12, 2000.


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