Eye on Education

Fewer Men Graduate from College Because Boys Don’t Try as Hard as Girls

Jason Pratt / Flickr

The reasons why women have outpaced men in earning college degrees has less to do with how schools are run and more to do with the fact that boys are less likely to put as much time and effort into their studies, Ohio State University professor Claudia Buchmann and her co-author write in a new book about America’s higher education gender gap:

Boys’ underachievement compared to girls has nothing to do with intelligence. Study after study shows that boys and girls are very similar in terms of cognitive ability.

“But what is striking is that at every level of cognitive ability, boys are getting lower grades than girls. It is not about ability – it is about effort and engagement,” Buchmann said.

The book, The Rise of Women: The Growing Gender Gap in Education and What it Means for American Schools, takes another look at why women are increasingly better educated than men:

In 1960, 65 percent of all bachelor’s degrees were awarded to men. By 2010, the gender positions reversed and women received 57 percent of all bachelor’s degrees.

The Rise of Women / Claudia Buchmann/Thomas DiPrete

Women starting surpassing men in college degrees beginning with women born in 1960.

Buchmann and her co-author say the way to start to close the gap is to raise expectations for all students, do a better job of explaining the pathways from high school to college to a good job, and break down the stereotypes that say “real men” don’t work hard in school.

But don’t worry, guys, men in general are still likely to end up ahead, University of Maryland professor Philip Cohen writes:

Because although women are more likely to graduate college and get some advanced degrees than men are today, there is nothing in this trend that implies women will surpass men in overall earnings or economic (much less political) power in the foreseeable future.


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