According to data from the Department of Education on college degrees by gender, the US college degree gap favoring women started back in 1978, when for the first time ever, more women than men earned Associate’s degrees. Five years later in 1982, women earned more bachelor’s degrees than men for the first time, and women have increased their share of bachelor’s degrees in every year since then. In another five years by 1987, women earned the majority of master’s degrees for the first time. Finally, within another decade, more women than men earned doctor’s degrees by 2006, and female domination of college degrees at every level was complete.
For the current graduating class of 2013, the Department of Education estimates that women will earn 61.6% of all associate’s degrees this year, 56.7% of all bachelor’s degrees, 59.9% of all master’s degrees, and 51.6% of all doctor’s degrees. Overall, 140 women will graduate with a college degree at some level this year for every 100 men.
For bachelor’s degrees, women have earned the majority of those degrees for every college class since 1982, and the female share of degrees has risen every year. But what about the cumulative gender gap for bachelor’s degrees (and all college degrees) over the last 30 years? The chart above shows that since 1982, women have earned 4.35 million more bachelor’s degrees than men (22.43 million degrees for women vs. 18.08 million degrees for men). For all college degrees, women have earned 9.7 million more degrees than men (44.1 million vs. 34.4 million) since 1982.
MP: Just as a thought experiment – imagine the public reaction if the educational degree imbalances of 4.35 million bachelor’s degrees and 9.7 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.” College degree disparities, when women are over-represented, never seem to be much of a concern. And with those enormous gender imbalances in higher education favoring women, do we really need hundreds of women’s centers on college campuses all over the country, women’s only study lounges, and female-only campus housing for STEM degrees?
Bottom Line: The reality is that the concern about gender imbalances and gender equity in higher education is very selective, imbalanced and inequitable – there is only concern when women are under-represented and never any concern when men are under-represented. There likely won’t be any commencement addresses this year lamenting the huge gender disparities in college degrees over the last 30 years, which is now approaching 10 million on a cumulative basis. Instead, it would be much more likely that we’ll hear about female under-representation in certain fields like engineering, physics and computer science. The selective concern about gender disparities continues.