Shift Toward Greater Educational Attainment for Women Began 20 Years Ago

In the mid-90s, black, white and Hispanic women aged 25-34 all pulled ahead of men in getting bachelor’s degrees or higher (or multiple, etc).  Asian women pulled ahead about ten years later.  Two decades of this has resulted in all women over 25 being likelier than all men over 25 to have a college degree.

Now since we’re talking about all adults over 25, and further, since it’s painfully obvious that college education doesn’t improve women’s financial earnings capacities reliably or consistently, we have to consider the longer-term implications of this on marriage and family formation.  Men still do earn more on average, *if they bother to work*, but they are increasingly not bothering to work.

Source: Shift Toward Greater Educational Attainment for Women Began 20 Years Ago

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31 thoughts on “Shift Toward Greater Educational Attainment for Women Began 20 Years Ago

  1. I think part of what’s going on is that more and more people are going to college. While the tippy top of academia is very male, as you dip deeper into the barrel of college-aged people, there are more women that can successfully complete a degree than there are men. While men (as a group) have more stars, women (as a group) have a deeper bench of reliable performers. And, going lower down, the bottom 20% of women is much more functional than the bottom 20% of men.

    With regard to work and gender, is there perhaps a social dimension? Part of the reward of work for women (on average) is social stimulation, in a way that may not be as true for men. Hence, women get “paid” more, even when the wage is the same.

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  2. You’re going to be hard-pressed to convince a parent these days to not have their daughters go to college. Even though most young women don’t continue beyond a Bachelor’s degree, parents push daughters to go to college for financial security.

    I think it’s only in very fringe groups you’re going to find daughters above 18 who aren’t going to college. They could be well-educated from homeschooling, or attending a school with a classical education curriculum. I’m all for encouraging young unmarried women who don’t attend college to do things, and whatever those are is up to them and the parents. The Botkin sisters actually appear to be quite intelligent to me– I’ve listened to free podcasts and downloads– and they didn’t attend college. They both work, with a business educating young unmarried women and are able to accomplish these things with the resources provided to them at home. I understand they are not typical– but their example is representative of how families used to work. How many people will have that if they don’t attend college? I’m thinking about the people who don’t have the same resources as the typical middle class family.

    There are very conservative Catholic and Protestant colleges around the country that have a mild rep for produce marriages. Heck there are even jokes about Brigham Young. College-attendance has become a way for people of similar cohorts to commingle and potentially marry, though it’s not perfect.

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    • Maea said:

      “You’re going to be hard-pressed to convince a parent these days to not have their daughters go to college.”

      Yeah. Even if the only goal is an MRS, college is a very good way to get there.

      I think B students and above should probably do college (unless there’s some sort of obvious vocational route that they have a passion for). Anybody who is a C student or less is almost certainly not going to do well in the unstructured college setting so (as a parent) I would not kill myself trying to get a C student through college.

      “The Botkin sisters actually appear to be quite intelligent to me– I’ve listened to free podcasts and downloads– and they didn’t attend college. They both work, with a business educating young unmarried women and are able to accomplish these things with the resources provided to them at home.”

      But they’re still unmarried, poor dears–I feel that if they had gone to college and/or worked conventional jobs outside the home, it’s very unlikely that they would still be single.

      “There are very conservative Catholic and Protestant colleges around the country that have a mild rep for produce marriages.”

      Yep.

      I’ve gotten less excited about the idea of marriage straight out of undergraduate, but it still happens. As a professor I know jokes, a wedding makes a great senior project!

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      • I was dreaming over chamomile before I went to bed 😛

        But really, if I were to implement that I would make it a boarding school. Like a formal school where women can do during the week and go back to their families on the weekends or something like that.

        @AmyP

        But they’re still unmarried, poor dears–I feel that if they had gone to college and/or worked conventional jobs outside the home, it’s very unlikely that they would still be single.

        True, they are still unmarried but they are untainted, intelligent, and overall present a good example to young women on the type of Christian woman one should be. Granted, I disagree with them on theological issues and other things…but doesn’t the fact that they are still chaste and devout young women still living with their parents mean the strategy worked? This was pointed out to me a few months ago.

        I get this impression it’s easy to pick on them because they aren’t married but they didn’t have to engage in premarital sex to know it was bad, they haven’t had OOW pregnancies, they don’t shun family and community life, etc. It’s not like they lived lives of hard partying either, and they’re very attractive women. Many parents would gladly take that over having to accept their children’s transgressions. They are also very aware of the reality of the modern culture.

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  3. Warning: Liberal slant

    An interesting point: “Women increasingly face the choice of marrying below their educational level or not marrying at all.” But we already knew this.

    As a Catholic, I’m not against educating women. It’s part of Church tradition. But now that I’m older, I can see how the current college/university system removes many of the aspects of family and community life from young people when they should be introduced to it. It goes to show how current K-12 education is problematic. A lot of college students cite after attending 2 years, they realize their last 2 years in high school were fluff.

    I think we should propose bringing back finishing schools, or some type of educational supplement for young women so they’re well-rounded, appear intelligent to men (men don’t want to have stupid kids), and doesn’t sacrifice family formation. We need to bring back the social engagements, like coming out parties (but not call it that because it’s ruined) so young women can be introduced to eligible men and develop some kind of social status. And encourage the kinds of activities suitable to young women that capitalizes on their current talents that doesn’t require a college degree, but allows them to demonstrate what kind of woman they are.

    Whether or not these solutions could ever reach fruition is an entirely different story.

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  4. I am not alarmed by women getting more education than men, especially between 18-22.

    The main danger that college presents today is debt. Hence, one not infrequently meets the young housewife with $40-$60k in student loans. And of course a lot of women may also find that their debt crushes their hopes of marriage (as suitors run hard in the opposite direction) or that they find that they have to keep working, even when they have little children at home and don’t want to.

    Keep the debt under control and it’s not really an issue.

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    • Come to think of it, for those of us who don’t do contraception, delaying marriage until 22+ can do a lot to keep family size reasonable.

      The famous CAF poster we’ve talked about (allegedly $40k a year, 8 kids, and doing FINE) says she got married at 18 and had 5 kids (including a set of twins) by the time she was 22. I eventually did the math on that and realized that the two of us have exactly the same number of children born after 22–it’s just that I got married at 22 and I’ve only got three total.

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    • There are plenty of ways to keep the debt under control and pay it off within a matter of 2-3 years. Or, not have any debt at all. Attend a community college, get all of the general education done, and transfer. Right there saves tens of thousands, and with high grades entering the larger university these students can quality for scholarships. Don’t go to a private school. Don’t live on campus– it’s actually cheaper to work part time, have a roommate situation in a house, and go to school. There’re ways to obtain scholarships through volunteering, “service-learning,” etc. The problem is, most students won’t take this route because it ruins the dreams of others for them to have the “college experience” and it makes people like me giving this advice sound like I’m aiming to dash young people’s aspirations. Parents would never allow me to say these things to their children.

      I am partly alarmed by these trends because it goes to show how the current K-12 educational system is hurting boys. There’s been plenty of research to show how “boy behavior” is punished and young boys learn to dislike school and therefore, education. It’s another reason why I’m slowly becoming pro-segregated educational schools or classes, at least. Contrary to the “if you segregate the sexes, they won’t learn how to interact” camp, I think there are plenty of opportunities where the sexes can intermingle and learn how to behave around each other. Once again, it goes back to whether or not these ideas/or solutions will come to pass. People have to decide whether they want to do anything about it.

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      • Maea said:

        “There are plenty of ways to keep the debt under control and pay it off within a matter of 2-3 years. Or, not have any debt at all.”

        Yeah. The stat is that the average new college grad with debt is graduating with $35k in student loans, but the fine print on that is that that’s the average for those with debt–a substantial minority do not have debt.

        About the apartment living thing–living in the general neighborhood of a reasonably conservative college campus, I suspect that one of the attractions of off-campus living in that situation is being able to live it up without scrutiny, so I’m a little less enamored of apartment living for college students. But it is cheaper, and I do actually like the idea of kids getting a chance to cook and take care of their own space. And it does make it much clearer to romantic prospects what they are getting into if they can see a week’s worth of dishes piling up…I really dislike the idea of young adults getting married out of the dorm.

        “I am partly alarmed by these trends because it goes to show how the current K-12 educational system is hurting boys.”

        I don’t have the stats for this right now, but I believe that there’s a little nuance there–middle class boys do OK. But yeah, without parents helpfully shoving them in the right direction, non-middle class boys do get lost in K-12. And the organizational/executive function load of middle school is much heavier than it was when we were in school. (I have a girl who has boy type issues with organization and an OCDish boy who needs almost no help with anything, so it’s not entirely a girl-boy thing.)

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      • YMMV – and one of the factors to consider when choosing a school is the living expenses. Where I went to school, even when I went to school, my living expenses were roughly twice my tuition. Maybe three times. That was in ’92. Err… comparison: I paid the same amount to rent a room in college (it would have been more in town) as I paid to rent an apartment a year later, when DH and I were married. That was because of that school’s location. Gorgeous, but $$$$$$ – and no real way to commute.

        I am hoping that my son is able to take the heat and do what El’s daughters did … and get most of his first couple of years done while he is still in HS, and it is free! Concurrent enrollment FTW. (And there’s another reason to consider a flexible school/charter school – the charter school is tots fine with you taking classes at the local CC).

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      • Attend a community college

        The secret problem around here is that a sizable chunk of the middle class parents view a community college as the place filled with all of the kids that they spent huge sums of money trying to avoid in the first place. It’s true to a lesser extent with some of the so-called directional state colleges that many of the CC grads eventually transfer into.

        I suspect that there are plenty of parents that would pay good money to keep their kids away from “proles.” Or at minimum, encourage huge sums of debt accumulation by their children for that purpose.

        to show how “boy behavior” is punished

        I suspect that taking the current educational establishment and going co-ed isn’t going to magically change the problem. The same teachers and rules would be in place. You’d need people that believe in such a movement to make the change work.

        FWIW, I’ve never understood this concept, but I went to Catholic school from K-12 where being told to sit down, shut up, and do as you’re told was the selling point of why you sent your kids there.

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        • This isn’t middle class status anxiety, this is lower middle status anxiety that not paying a fortune for a proper 4 year college is somehow going to doom you. LMC overesteem name recognition and the US News and World Report rankings, and get into massive financial trouble as a result.

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      • DA said:

        “The secret problem around here is that a sizable chunk of the middle class parents view a community college as the place filled with all of the kids that they spent huge sums of money trying to avoid in the first place.”

        I have a couple of relatives who teach mostly remedial community college classes, I’ve heard a lot of stories, and I have some thoughts on that.

        1. It’s not just “kids” at CC, it’s young adults with jobs and families of their own who don’t have any time for nonsense.

        2. A lot of problem students never make it out of the remedial classes. So unless you’re in the remedial classes, you’re good.

        3. A lot of problem students don’t show up beyond the first few classes.

        So, no worries!

        “I suspect that there are plenty of parents that would pay good money to keep their kids away from “proles.” Or at minimum, encourage huge sums of debt accumulation by their children for that purpose.”

        It is true that freshman year at a 4-year-college is very important for making friends, joining extracurricular groups, and settling in socially. I do feel sorry for anybody who has to try to do all that stuff as a junior.

        There is a “finishing” school aspect to 4-year colleges (especially private schools), so people aren’t just paying for nothing–it’s just very expensive.

        “I suspect that taking the current educational establishment and going co-ed isn’t going to magically change the problem. The same teachers and rules would be in place. You’d need people that believe in such a movement to make the change work.”

        I’ve taught basically single gender classes and you just start automatically adapting your methods to what you’ve got in front of you.

        “FWIW, I’ve never understood this concept, but I went to Catholic school from K-12 where being told to sit down, shut up, and do as you’re told was the selling point of why you sent your kids there.”

        Funny!

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      • The secret problem around here is that a sizable chunk of the middle class parents view a community college as the place filled with all of the kids that they spent huge sums of money trying to avoid in the first place.

        I think a lot of that’s overstated, and probably depends on the school and the region. From what I’ve seen, the kids parents wanted their own children to avoid 1. end up dropping out of school before graduating high school, 2. go to an alternative learning center and don’t continue from there, 3. don’t bother continuing with college until they’re older. Those aren’t the same people who’re willing to fork over thousands of dollars just to mess around, and if they do they get promptly suspended or expelled.

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      • I’ve taught basically single gender classes

        Yes, but you’re posting here so you’re not like the other teachers. The boy behaviour that pisses off the teachers now isn’t going to go away because you took the girls away.

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      • TPC said:

        “This isn’t middle class status anxiety, this is lower middle status anxiety that not paying a fortune for a proper 4 year college is somehow going to doom you. LMC overesteem name recognition and the US News and World Report rankings, and get into massive financial trouble as a result.”

        That’s a good call, but I think I’d place it at middle middle class, not lower middle class. Anecdotally, it’s middle middle class/lower upper middle class families that really get the business from notorious outfits like NYU.

        http://www.journalism.nyu.edu/publishing/archives/livewire/money_work/gen_debt/index.html

        It is very true, though, that real upper middle class families are very big on state schools and/or just plain pay for private school and whine about it. But the big student loan disasters do seem to involve slightly lower income families who don’t understand what they can and can’t afford and are dazzled by the big name.

        (In our family, I have already decreed that we contribute the equivalent of one year of college at our local state school. But if one of the dear children got into Caltech or MIT or something, I’d have to do some soul-searching–but we wouldn’t go hog wild just for a basic liberal arts education–you can do that anywhere.)

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      • Maea said:

        “I think a lot of that’s overstated, and probably depends on the school and the region. From what I’ve seen, the kids parents wanted their own children to avoid 1. end up dropping out of school before graduating high school, 2. go to an alternative learning center and don’t continue from there, 3. don’t bother continuing with college until they’re older. Those aren’t the same people who’re willing to fork over thousands of dollars just to mess around, and if they do they get promptly suspended or expelled.”

        Yeah. They don’t have to be there, so they’re not there. (Although, I’m told that there is some funny business with just signing up for CC classes for some sort of government cookie–but those people disappear pretty quickly at the beginning of term.)

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      • DA said:

        “Yes, but you’re posting here so you’re not like the other teachers.”

        It was a somewhat anomalous situation, because I was in the Peace Corps and these were Russian kids. But some of the older boys were pretty tough kids.

        “The boy behaviour that pisses off the teachers now isn’t going to go away because you took the girls away.”

        Amen to that–and you’ve got to adapt or die.

        I learned pretty quickly to do the following with my boys:

        –keep ’em busy
        –competitions!
        –games
        –GRADES
        –plan!!!!!

        And it was still like riding a tiger.

        The girls were (on average) an academically stronger group and I was able to manage them with a much softer hand.

        The war in Chechnya was raging at the time, so the boys did have the added motivation that if they didn’t go to college, they’d wind up drafted into the Russian Army and perhaps sent to Chechnya. So that did provide a little extra external motivation–but there was still a lot of goofing off and fecklessness.

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      • I think a lot of that’s overstated, and probably depends on the school and the region

        I should note that I live on Long Island, where status games are a bit more elevated compared to what the rest of you are used to, and where the cost of failure is much higher. As an anecdote, my mom’s real estate agent friend noted when her co-worker’s daughter failed out of some private college and had to attend community college, the mother had signicant shame and disgust at the entire concept of doing so. Commuting to a private four year school that has no real value to it is seen as better since the high price implicitly keeps out the prole kids that you don’t want “corrupting” your children. Even if worst of the bunch drop out, they still seem to hang around a bit too much on the quad. Ironically, little do the parents know what their children do when they’re not around, or who they meet at the local clubs and bars.

        As a bias note, I am a community college graduate.

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      • The boy behaviour that pisses off the teachers now isn’t going to go away because you took the girls away.

        To my knowledge, part of the reason why same-sex schools and classes were successful is because they had the appropriate teachers. The MAIN reason why the boy behavior pisses of the teachers is because teachers expect children to have meds doused in their bloodstreams in order to behave all the time.

        That’s not how children work. There’s a reason why schools should allow room for creativity, movement, and recess. If the school isn’t performing, time to send your kid to a different school or homeschool.

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      • Oh, what a disaster the threading is getting to be!

        Maea said:

        “To my knowledge, part of the reason why same-sex schools and classes were successful is because they had the appropriate teachers. The MAIN reason why the boy behavior pisses of the teachers is because teachers expect children to have meds doused in their bloodstreams in order to behave all the time.”

        Also, some combination of the following:

        1. a shorter school day

        2. school having the ability to beat the snot out of and/or expel anybody who didn’t get with the program

        3. a grade 1-8 school system, not a PK-16 school system, and in earlier days, the option for kids of bailing on school without shame and beginning real employment as of age 10 or 11

        But one area where I would tend to get on the band wagon is projects. There’s a very nice treatment of this in the book Raising a Left Brain Child in a Right-Brain World and the blog oilf.blogspot.com, which are dedicated to fighting the project menace. Projects are (on average) much more girl friendly and tend to tick boys off. I’ve already seen this under my own roof–my daughter adores school projects and her younger brother whimpers through them.

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  5. What happens to the people who aren’t middle class? There’s data to show low-income students who graduate college still earn substantially more than they would if they didn’t go to college. It’s not like marriage is popular with low-income and working class demographics.

    In fact, I think we’re kidding ourselves if we think marriage is popular at all. We’ve got to accept the reality many in the next generation or 2 probably won’t marry at all, even if they eschew college education to make themselves available. But, it’s not like having tons of single people wasn’t historically common. Marriage was something a man had to afford, and a woman had to be from a certain social standing to marry. Marriage was a form of elite social standing, which is why divorce was so rare.

    The problem is we’re got a lot of horny frustrated people, many who will not marry, and we’ve got to keep them out of trouble.

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    • Yes. We have a lot of people who live in a “post-marriage” society, much as we live in the “post-Christian” West. And they don’t give a darn about us and our high-falutin’ ideas.

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      • And they don’t give a darn about us and our high-falutin’ ideas.

        Bingo.

        It’s unfortunate, because these are questions that should’ve been asked 15 years ago if the trend started 20 years ago…and it only takes a handful of years for demographic trends to show up in the stats. For whatever reasons these questions weren’t asked, and if they were no one cared to pay attention.

        At this point, I think we have to figure out how to navigate through the mess, and for those of us who care about family formations and community ties, give those young people the best chances at success. Teach them how to be discerning and scrutinizing so the culture doesn’t eat them alive. Even if they don’t marry, teach them how to be a well-rounded, holy person who will still live a bountiful life.

        But the overall culture? I have to accept it’s a thing we just have to live with. Something tells me the idea of Christian enclaves, or loose enclaves which expand through rural and city regions is on the horizon.

        Normally I’m not so pessimistic but heck, even I can’t be so blind to ignore the reality.

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    • Maea said:

      “What happens to the people who aren’t middle class? There’s data to show low-income students who graduate college still earn substantially more than they would if they didn’t go to college. It’s not like marriage is popular with low-income and working class demographics.”

      Right.

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      • It’s not like marriage is popular with low-income and working class demographics.”

        This is going to be controversial here, but I suspect it’s because those groups are either holding out for somebody better with more attractiveness or income, or the terrible relationship dynamics in this group scares off those in that class from wanting a permanent bond with another person*. One could even argue that the social welfare and tax credits push people away from marriage, and I think in some communities, the concept simply doesn’t exist since there are few or no role models of how marriage works.

        *If you’re inclined to HBD based theories, you can blame the combination of low IQ and low conscientiousness.

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      • DA said:

        “This is going to be controversial here, but I suspect it’s because those groups are either holding out for somebody better with more attractiveness or income, or the terrible relationship dynamics in this group scares off those in that class from wanting a permanent bond with another person*. One could even argue that the social welfare and tax credits push people away from marriage, and I think in some communities, the concept simply doesn’t exist since there are few or no role models of how marriage works.”

        Right.

        One thing that doesn’t really get talked about over at Dalrock et al is the importance of intelligence in marriage. (I suppose that’s because they believe that women are all inherently inferior beings, so there’s no point in talking about our relative intelligence–we’re supposed to just do what we’re told–end of story.) The smarter both members of a couple are, the more compatible they are, the greater their joint gifts, and the greater their social intelligence, the easier it is to solve the basic and more complex problems associated with running a household and launching children into independence. There’s a lot of similarity between the personal qualities that secure an upper middle class income and the personal qualities that help to successfully run an upper middle class home.

        tldr: Matthew 25:29.

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