Academia’s Critical Minority


If the women driving the feminist movement in the 1960s and ’70s could have foreseen the widening gender gap in colleges today, they would have heartily congratulated themselves.

Currently in the U.S., 57 percent of college graduates are women. For the past 20 years, women have been earning more associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees than men, and they are rapidly closing in on the M.D. and Ph.D. gap. The American Bar Association reports that the majority of law students will soon be women. There is no sign of the pace slowing down.

The drift is evident not only at secondary and post-secondary education levels, but at primary levels. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that more boys than girls drop out or are expelled from school, and males are three times as likely to be enrolled in special education programs. Girls are 60 percent less likely to drop out of high school than boys. “Educators say that in general, women are more prepared as students, more mature, better writers and readers, and more ambitious,” while demographers and labor studies experts say “American men are becoming less literate, less ambitious, less responsible, and less employable than women” (abc News, July 18, 2002).

This trend affects every major age and race-ethnic group and is happening in every state in America.

As the situation continues, it will mean more women will have a harder time finding mates with similar educational backgrounds, interests and ambitions. The resulting “marriage squeeze,” according to labor market economist Andrew Sum, who published a report on the study last year, will cause economic and cultural problems.

Sum predicted labor shortages in high-skilled occupations, increased unemployment, decline in labor productivity, less men able to financially support their families and a heavier strain on government financing.

The social consequences include increased fatherlessness. “[B]etter-educated males, especially past age 30, are more likely to be married and living with their spouses and children,” concluded Sum in his report. “They are less likely to father out of wedlock. A better-educated male population, thus, should help increase marriage rates, strengthen family life, reduce family poverty and dependency, and improve the future economic prospects of the nation’s children.” Sum also pointed out that, based on past studies, well-educated men are less likely to be involved in criminal activity, reducing the number of incarcerated adults and lowering overall crime rates.