There's a growing college gender gap, but I'm not sure how much it's growing since it's something that I noticed in 1995 when I started at UCLA.

Today, many colleges, particularly selective residential schools, face a dilemma unthinkable a generation ago.

To place well in influential college rankings, those schools must enroll as many top high school students as they can — and most of those students are female. Administrators are watching closely for the "tipping point" at which schools become unappealing to both men and women. They fear that lopsided male-female ratios will hurt the social life and diverse classrooms they use as selling points. ...

Such recruiting is complicated because girls outperform boys in high school. High school boys do score slightly higher on the SAT but more girls have A averages, rank in the top 10% of their class and take more academic courses than boys, according to the College Board.

Researchers are divided about the causes and extent of the college gender gap.

Some say the gap is limited to lower-income students and minorities, with girls from those populations more likely to attend college and boys more likely to go directly to work or the military. Affluent white males are at least as likely to attend college as their female counterparts, according to those experts. Others say the gap crosses race and class lines.

I don't know for sure what's causing the gap, but there are at least two possibilities worth considering. The first is in the article:
A former counselor at two Los Angeles high schools, Hatch said that in college admissions "the developmental lag rears its ugly head." High school boys "are more likely to be late bloomers," sometimes not hitting their academic stride until their junior year, he explained. That, Hatch said, can hurt boys in class rank and cumulative grade point average.
It's definitely true that girls mature faster than boys, in many ways, and rating kids based on performance up to age 18 would certainly reflect that.

The second possibility is only hinted at in the article.

If students complain about the gender mix, it is usually with a sense of humor. "My friends tell me I should switch my major to engineering if I want a boyfriend," joked student government president and religious studies major Annie Selak, citing one of the few mostly male sectors on campus. ...

The female-heavy graduating classes are making their mark farther up the chain. Women outnumbered men among medical school applicants for the second consecutive year, and more women than men now earn doctorates.

The part about medical school, at least, is incorrect. (More men than women enroll, and more men then women graduate.) As for doctorates and grad school... my hypothesis is that men feel more of a pressure to earn a living and make money, while women may be able to afford to spend more time earning degrees that are essentially, financially, worthless.

Despite Kevin Drum's call for a "stream of outraged posts and crosstalk" from the right, it's perhaps worth noting that while I don't necessarily approve of gender preferences in this context, I definitely don't condemn gender discrimination in general. There are many situations in which treating men and women differently is not only justified, but morally required.



Email blogmasterofnoneATgmailDOTcom for text link and key word rates.

Site Info