Carpe Diem

Staggering college degree gap favoring women, who have earned 9 million more college degrees than men since 1982


According to the Department of Education, more women than men have graduated from US colleges with bachelor’s degrees in every year since 1982, and the same is true for all college degrees (associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s and doctor’s degrees). For the class of 2012, women earned 61.7% of all associate’s degrees, 56.9% of all bachelor’s degrees, 59.6% of all master’s degrees, and 52.1% of all doctor’s degrees. Overall, there were 141 women graduating with a college degree at some level in 2012 for every 100 men.

We know there’s been a gender gap for every college class since 1982, but what about the cumulative gender gap in college degrees over the last 30 years? The chart above shows that since 1982, women have earned 4.1 million more bachelor’s degrees than men (21.4 million degrees for women vs. 17.3 million degrees for men). For all college degrees, women have earned 9.1 million more degrees than men (41.9 million vs. 32.8 million) since 1982.

A cumulative educational gap that large and imbalanced has to have some major implications for America, and one implication is being felt in the US housing market.

The chart above was inspired by this CNBC article by housing reporter Diana Olick, and the suggestion that important female demographics, including the enormous college degree gap, are driving the housing and apartment markets. Here’s an excerpt:

The housing market is supposedly roaring back. Home prices are seeing their biggest annual gains since 2006. Renters must be rushing back to buy, right? Not exactly.

In fact, even as housing and the greater economy improve, a shift in demographic trends will likely favor the rental apartment market for the foreseeable future. It is all about women.

“What drives demand for single family homes is, ‘Oh honey, I’m pregnant,” says Buck Horne, a housing analyst at Raymond James. But those words are being uttered less and less. Horne claims the shift in female education, marriage and fertility rates will drive rental apartment demand going forward. He points to a growing educational imbalance, that is, 3.1 million more women enrolled in college than men and 4 million more college-educated women in the workforce than men.

“That creates a structural imbalance in the number of suitable partners. Women leave college with good income prospects and are not finding suitable husbands and fathers,” says Horne.

Consequently, the millennial generation is delaying marriage and motherhood, and birth and fertility rates are dropping. This all points to more structural, long-term demand for rental housing.

MP: It’s interesting that the cumulative college degree gap is having an impact on the housing/rental markets, and that effect is showing up in the homeownership rate, which continues to decline. The Census Bureau reported today that the US homeownership rate in the fourth quarter of last year fell to 65.4%, down from 66% a year earlier, and down from the peak of 69.2% in 2004. The 65.4% homeownership rate in Q4 2012 was the lowest since Q1 of 1997, more than 15 years ago.

And finally, just as a thought experiment – imagine the general reaction if the educational degree imbalances of 4.1 million bachelor’s degrees and 9.1 million college degrees overall favored men, and not women? I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that a college degree imbalance that large in favor of men would be considered a “national crisis.” And with those enormous gender imbalances in higher education favoring women, do we really need more than 500 women’s centers on college campuses all over the country, women’s only study lounges, and female-only campus housing for STEM degrees? But that final point about female-only STEM dorms highlights the key issue: the concern about gender imbalances and gender equity is very, very selective, imbalanced and inequitable – there is only concern when women are under-represented and never any concern when the second sex is under-represented!

10 thoughts on “Staggering college degree gap favoring women, who have earned 9 million more college degrees than men since 1982

  1. Two items I note…

    1. Women hold most of the college debt
    2. The author says “women leave college with good income prospects”. Is that true? Does a degree in women studies offer a better income than a plumber? Doubtful that degree holder would ever marry a plumber, and also doubtful a plumber would marry a debt loaded degree holder. That begs the question…who is better prepared for life?

    • This. Is. So. True.

      I have yet to see a study which shows how all this excess high education is actually helping women, weighing the fact that:
      1) They are more likely to major in a field with limited career prospects,
      2) They are starting out with more debt
      3) They are more likely to put their career on hold to have a child or two.
      4) They are more likely to go into a career which accomodates such a hold.

      Put it all together and women are getting much less bang for their buck by investing the time and money into higher education. Also the mindless enrollment into the higher educaiton – regardless of cost/benefit – is driving to cost up and the benefit down, making not going to college a rational choice for men.

      At the end of the day, women are going to college mostly because they are being told to, and men are not because it often doesn’t make sense to. What you see is a predictable result of the dymanic our society has created.

  2. Um, OK, so where’s the analysis of the other side of the problem? If educated women are not marrying and buying houses, then, to a VERY large extent, that also means that an equal millions of men who are not finding brides and also not buying homes to raise families. The idea of blue collar plumbers marrying white collar gender studies graduates is rather a stretch. So who are the plumbers marrying?

  3. Women are responding to income incentives where institutions (government, large businesses) are the safest providers of income, and credentials are a pathway to employment in institutions.

    Should we ever get to an economy which is less institutionalized and more entrenepeurial, and income is created by work and vision (or, on the other hand, governments and larger institutions have run out of money) degrees will lose their value. What is the value of a degree, in any field, in Stockton, or San Bernadino?

    • “Should we ever get to an economy which is less institutionalized and more entrenepeurial, and income is created by work and vision”

      I doubt this very highly. We are slaves to government, what is debt? Money is debt…made up money is debt, who do we owe? The problem is not degree getting and all that, its just we are slaves. slaves to government. if you have a social security card you are owned by the US of A. work is debt(paying taxes), your house is debt, your car is debt. we work for who? we don’t own any thing completely free of paying taxes on it. Good luck with all that

  4. The issue I see is how many men are taking woman’s rolls and being stay at home dads? I am for equality and I am for men and woman getting an education. We have more single moms who need to better their education to support those babies that they are taking care of on their own. Here in Memphis the woman out number the men, some where like 20 woman to one man, and many of those woman are single mothers trying to make it. The problem I see is it is an economical issue. Woman have to go to school because its necessary for them to provide where a man is lacking. I on the other hand have been to college twice, I am working on my degree right now. I am married and I don’t have to go to school, but reality is, my husband is sick and if something were to happen to him, I would want job security. (if that exist any more) Some men do not attend college because most hard labor jobs do not require a degree. Most only require an apprenticeship. In the real world it is easier for a man to take a hard job, that demands physical labor, woman generally are not tough enough for those types of demanding jobs. There are many factors. But definitely not because a woman is not smarter or dumber. Its all out of need and all deferent scenarios.

  5. Many single moms are single because they refuse to mary down. also many men are reluctant to mary because they stand to loose everything if a marriage goes south. Men never refused to marry down because they are hardwired to feel that they should be the providers therefor a woman’s ability to provide was not at issue however a woman’s attraction for a male was bassed historicaly upon his ability to provide. when women excel in education they out compete for high paying jobs and thus women become the better provider
    and begins to think why do I need a man. When one gender begins to ask why they need the other gender something wicked this way comes.There is a red flag waving here. there is danger here!!

    The solution is to close the gender gap in education which is the root cause of why women are starting to make more money than men. Women are not out performing males in education because of their alleged susperiority As many women think.

    Remember back in the eighties our boys exceled over our girls. They reformed the educational system and evidently made it more girl friendly. thus the solution is to revisit the system to truly make it gender neutral which will because boys are equal to girls in inteligence enable boys to catch up and then there will
    be parity achieved between the genders and women won’t have to marry down.

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