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Female Seniors in 1992 More Ambitious Than in '72, Study Finds

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Female high school seniors were much more ambitious about their educational and career goals in 1992 than they were 20 years earlier, a recent study shows.

Data for the study by the National Center for Education Statistics came from two surveys: the National Longitudinal Survey of 1972 and a 1992 follow-up to the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988.

By 1992, many of the differences in high-school-program enrollment that had existed between boys and girls in 1972 had largely disappeared, the study found.

Over all, roughly the same proportion--about half--of 1992 high school seniors were enrolled in academic or college-preparatory high school programs as in 1972. A smaller proportion were taking vocational programs than had done so 20 years earlier, while more were taking a general track of courses.

The young women of 1992 were more likely to take academic programs, and substantially less likely to enroll in vocational programs, than their counterparts in the previous generation.

Also by 1992, more seniors planned to continue their education in college and beyond--84 percent, as opposed to 63 percent in 1972. Virtually all of the increase was due to growth in the ranks of those intending to pursue graduate or professional degrees.

Girls Eye Graduate School

The changes were especially striking for girls, the study found.

Female seniors in 1992 were nearly four times more likely than their 1972 peers to expect to attend graduate or professional school--35.4 percent, compared with 9.1 percent.

And about half as many girls in 1992 were planning to attend vocational, trade, or business school after high school as had in 1972.

Young men and women have switched places since 1972 in their educational aspirations, according to the report. In 1972, men were more likely than women to expect to go to graduate school and less likely to believe their educations would end with high school. In 1992, the situation was reversed.

Career expectations have also changed. In 1972, 45.4 percent of all seniors said they would be employed in a professional job, a share that had risen to 59 percent by 1992.

The type of work young women anticipate doing has changed markedly. In 1972, 25.5 percent of female seniors expected to be in clerical work--an occupation that attracted only 5.7 percent of the next generation of girls.

Over those 20 years, change has also come to students' values.

Success in work, the ability to find a steady job, having lots of money, the ability to give children a better life, and living close to parents and relatives were each rated as "very important'' by a greater proportion of 1992 seniors than of 1972 seniors.

In addition, the percentage of seniors who felt it was "very important'' to work to correct social and economic inequalities dropped from 26.9 percent to 20.3 percent.

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