“Men are dropping out of higher education in such numbers that they are now following female students at record levels. “ So says the opening sentence of a buzzing Wall Street Journal article.
Here are some of the mind-boggling statistics: Women now make up 59.5% of students in the United States. They also obtain 58.5% of master’s degrees and 52.9% of doctorates Women have obtained the majority of doctorates for 13 consecutive years. In the 2020-2021 academic year, one million more women than men applied to university.
You can be forgiven if you find these numbers startling. The popular press focuses on the challenges women face, not on their accomplishments. We are constantly warned against girls’ silence, discrimination against female athletes, glass ceilings, pay gaps, “Mansplaining” and the scarcity of women in the top ranks of American business. There are countless programs, scholarships and incentives to increase the proportion of girls and women studying STEM subjects (the only fields where men continue to earn more doctorates than women). And the hypothesis persists that it is a man’s world.
But it is debatable. While it is true that men still outnumber women among law firm partners, CEOs and university presidents, it may well be an artefact of age. The growing cohort is predominantly female, and the ranks of female managers and partners have grown as a result. Senior leaders will likely follow suit eventually (although it should be noted that women give up more often than men at the corner office in order to balance family and career – a topic I discuss in my 2018 book. “Sex matters. “)
Seventy percent of high school majors are girls. They represent such a disproportionate share of qualified applicants that admissions committees have practiced affirmative action for men for many years. “Is there a thumb on the scales for the boys?” Absoutely,” Jennifer Delahunty, a college enrollment consultant who previously headed the admissions offices at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, and Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, told The Wall Street Journal. “The question is, is this right or wrong?”
There is no simple answer to this question. Colleges admit men with lower grades and scores, but that’s not because they’re trying to support a declining patriarchy. No, the reality is that women are less likely to enroll in college with a 60/40 female to male ratio than one that is more balanced.
Some might note this feminine preeminence and cry hurray for feminism. But I would keep the champagne corked, because, let’s face it, women like to marry men who are their equal or superior in terms of education and income, and if this trend of women vastly outperforming men in matters education continues, a good proportion of women are not going to be able to find compatible men.
I can already hear the mockery. What a Victorian! As if women have to worry about going to college to get their “MRS” degree!
This is obviously not the subject. Marriage remains a goal of life for most people. In a 2013 Gallup survey of American adults, only 5% of those polled said they had never been married and did not want to marry someday. (For young adults aged 18 to 34, this figure was slightly higher: 9%.)
Americans are right about wanting marriage, which is associated with more happiness, health, and wealth for adults, and with just about every benefit you can think of for children. Just one example: 75% of highly selective college graduate students were raised by two married parents.
This brings us to a bit of social science research that deserves a lot more attention. It’s not news that marriage has been in decline for decades. In 1960, about 5% of births were to unmarried women. Today it is 40%. It is well established that children raised in single parent families are much more likely to live in poverty, to perform poorly in school, and to become vulnerable to mistakes that can derail their lives, such as getting into trouble with the child. justice or drop out of high school.
But here’s the part that deserves more study: It seems that growing up in a single-parent family isn’t as damaging for girls as it is for boys. Comparing Florida siblings who grew up in single-parent families, an MIT study found that “Growing up in a single-parent family appears to significantly reduce the likelihood of going to university for boys, but does not have a similar effect for girls.” Boys raised without a father or father figure tend to be less ambitious and less optimistic than girls raised without a father or father figure, and tend to have more problems in school.
There is a lot of other research that finds similar effects. Richard Reeves, co-director of the Brookings Center on Children and Families, said that when it comes to thriving in a less than ideal family setting, “Girls can look more like dandelions, while boys can look more like orchids.”
The gender gap that has emerged in educational attainment may be an effect of broken families. Boys who grow up without the stabilizing influence of two parents have more difficulty than girls. So hats off to the girls who kill him in schools, but for both genders to be the best and happiest, we need to revive the norm of marriage.