Education Funding Opinion

The Atlantic Weighs in on the Gender Gap

By Richard Whitmire — June 10, 2010 1 min read
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In The End of Men, Hanna Rosin lays out the international case for why parents, societies and businesses are favoring women. Simply put, in a postindustrial society women make a better fit.

When parents practice sex selection, they chose girls, not boys. Given yesterday’s primary news, where women are beginning to take their proper place in politics, Rosin’s piece is timely.

From the article:

We've all heard about the collegiate gender gap. But the implications of that gap have not yet been fully digested. Women now earn 60 percent of master's degrees, about half of all law and medical degrees, and 42 percent of all M.B.A.s. Most important, women earn almost 60 percent of all bachelor's degrees--the minimum requirement, in most cases, for an affluent life. In a stark reversal since the 1970s, men are now more likely than women to hold only a high-school diploma. "One would think that if men were acting in a rational way, they would be getting the education they need to get along out there," says Tom Mortenson, a senior scholar at the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education. "But they are just failing to adapt."

Mortenson has it right. In their relative lack of academic aspiration, men are defying basic economic laws. It should be obvious what men need to do to acquire the material goods they desire, but they’re not doing it.

So is Rosin right? Girls rule? I would feel more comfortable with her thesis if I saw more women launching significant start-up businesses. It’s a risk issue. To date, men seem more comfortable with that risk. Plus, I would feel more comfortable if I saw more women taking on more math and science studies and persisting in those careers. If women are to rule universities, then we have a keen national economic interest in what they do with those degrees.

Until those two things happen, I’ll continue to feel uneasy about this gender trend. And even if more women started taking greater entrepreneurial risks and began plunging into the socially isolating jobs they avoid, such as code writing, we’d still be left with the “marriageable mate” issue. Who wants to marry the guys left behind?

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