In the 1980s, more women began to attend college than men — and, according to census figures, more women in the US are now earning more graduate degrees than men. Among adults 25 and older, 10.6 million women in the US have a master’s degree or higher, compared to 10.5 million men. Overall, 10.2 percent of women as a whole have advanced degrees compared with 10.9 percent of men as a whole, but these figures seem likely to change.
Women still trail men in earning degrees in the areas of science, engineering and business and women with full-time jobs make 78.2 percent of what men earn. But currently, 20.1 million women earn a bachelor’s degree in college, as compared to 18.7 million men. Among adults 25 and older, women are also more likely than men to have finished high school, 87.6 percent to 86.6 percent.
The Seattle Times notes that the findings “come amid record shares of women in the workplace and a steady decline in stay-at-home mothers.” With greater educational preparation, women have more access to a broader range of jobs, a phenomenon that contributes to a “greater shift of traditional gender roles at home and work.” The census figures indeed suggest a correlation between women’s educational achievements and being a stay-at-home mom: Stay-at-home moms today are more likely “young, foreign-born Hispanics who lack college degrees than professional women who set aside careers for full-time family life after giving birth.”
(Though I can cite an example of a friend who’s a stay-at-home mom with a Ph.D. in the sciences; she does work part-time from home.)
Men are finding a new role as stay-at-home dads, with one in 15 — nearly 2 million last year — acting as the primary caregiver for their children. Some of these men do work part-time or are themselves studying for another degree. Indeed, Mark Perry, an economics professor at the University of Michigan, Flint, who is a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, says:
“The gaps we’re seeing in bachelor’s and advanced degrees mean that women will be better protected against the next recession.
“Men now might be the ones more likely to be staying home, doing the more traditional child rearing.”
Frankly, I’m excited by these findings about more women obtaining graduate degrees after college. At my college — a small, Jesuit institution in a very urban setting in New Jersey’s densely populated Hudson County — I advise students applying to graduate school. At a recent information session I held, 75% – 80% of the students present were female. This result could have occurred for a number of reasons, but I was definitely aware of the number of young women in the room.
I have noted that my male students often have a lot of challenges just to complete college (reasons that often are little related to their academic abilities and aspirations, but to societal forces and cultural pressures). I’ve wondered if more than a few of the young men I’ve taught feel a huge pressure on them to get a job and help support their extended family, and feel they can’t spend more time getting a graduate degree?
It will also be interesting to see the American family in a state of transformation. Just think: In today’s version of “Leave It To Beaver,” it wouldn’t necessarily be June Cleever greeting the boys with the cookies and milk when they come home from school.
Or maybe June would handing them their snacks before rushing back to her office or her lab.
Photo by m00by.