Society and Culture

Men Grossly Underrepresented in Graduate School Enrollment

The Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) released its annual report this week (“Graduate Enrollment and Degrees: 1999 to 2009”); here are links to the press release and full report. What has been getting the most attention is the report’s finding that women earned a slight majority of doctoral degrees (50.4 percent) in 2009 for the first time ever, see top chart below. By field of study, women also had a majority and outnumbered men in six of the eleven graduate fields for doctoral degrees: arts and humanities, biology, education, health sciences, public administration, and social/behavioral studies (see chart below). Men still earn a majority of doctoral degrees in the most math-intensive fields of study such as business, engineering, math and computer science, and physical sciences.



The CGS also reported on the total student enrollment in 2009 by gender and field for all graduate programs (master’s and doctoral, see bottom chart above). By this measure, it’s not even close: women enrolled in graduate programs outnumber men by a wide margin. Overall, women represent 58.9 percent of all graduate students in the United States, meaning that there are now 142.3 women enrolled in graduate programs for every 100 men. Female graduate students outnumber men in seven out of the eleven graduate fields of study, and are underrepresented now in only business, engineering, math and computer science, and physical sciences. In certain fields like education (75 percent female), health sciences (79 percent female), and public administration (74.4 percent), women outnumber men by a factor of three to four times.

Here’s a prediction: The fact that men are grossly underrepresented in graduate school enrollment overall (only 100 men for every 142 women), and underrepresented in 7 out of 11 graduate fields of study will get almost no media attention at all. Additionally, there will be no calls for government studies, increased government funding, or Title IX legislation to address the gender imbalance in graduate school, and nobody will refer to this huge gender gap in graduate school enrollment as a “crisis.”

But what might get attention is the fact that women are underrepresented in the four most math-intensive graduate fields. And this selective gender imbalance will likely be traced to sex discrimination, and probably not to the huge and persistent gender differences in SAT math test scores that has persisted over many generations, as I documented here based on the 2010 SAT scores released this week by the College Board.

Here’s a possible connection between the two reports: For the most math-intensive fields of graduate study (business, engineering, math and computer science, and physical sciences) where men are overrepresented in graduate schools, the male-female student ratio is 1.70 to 1 (322,516 males enrolled to 189,372 females, according to the CGS). Interestingly, the male-female ratio for 2010 SAT math scores of 700 or above (93rd percentile and higher) is 1.69 to 1 (65,606 males to 38,728 females, according to the College Board).


(Thanks to Chris DeMuth for suggesting that there might be such a connection.)

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