This post is part of a series on the annual Condition of Education put out by the National Center for Education Statistics. See earlier posts on the dramatic increase in Master’s degrees awarded in education, the college wage premium, economic and racial segregation in our schools, student/teacher ratios, and enrollment in for-profit colleges.
It’s tempting to think of problems as having recent or discrete causes. So, under this logic, males aren’t going to college because they’re playing video games, or because Title IX reduced their interest in it somehow, or because males had decent career opportunities with only high school diplomas back in the olden days, whereas now they don’t. In yet another instance where steady trends are the boring-but-correct explanation, consider the chart below. It depicts total college enrollment by gender from 1970 to 2008, and what it shows is that women and men have been on totally distinct trajectories for nearly 40 years. Women have been the dominant gender on college campuses since 1977.
What’s most interesting, perhaps, is that the percentage of men on college campuses fell 10 percentage points in the ten years from 1970 to 1980, but then it’s fallen only about 5.5 percentage points in the 28 years since. The gap between men and women has widened very little recently. Between 1998 and 2008, women gained only an additional .6 percent.