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PostWatch: An irregular correction to the Washington Post

Brought to you by Christopher Rake


Saturday, June 29, 2002
2:58 PM

Post-Modern Math...Saturday Free For All writers Laureen Lazarovici, Roseanne Kane, Alehsa Durfee and Ken Kraner are puzzled by a Michael Fletcher story earlier this week while simultaneously, in their gender makeup, showing where college education is headed. Fletcher wrote that educators were worried about declining percentages of men attending post-secondary schools.


Thousands and thousands of women with college degrees ["Degrees of Separation," front page, June 25]. Gee, what could be worse? Maybe all of these women will get good educations, get satisfying, decent-paying jobs, support their families and -- egads! -- contribute to the national debate on important issues..

The problem isn't that more women are going to college. That's good. The problem is that less men are.


Michael Fletcher's article is interesting, but the impression that male college attendance is declining is not true. Deep into the second page we read that the "number of male college graduates has increased . . . to 529,000." We never hear what that means in terms of percentage of increase, although the quotations suggest dramatic changes. All this article tells us is that more women are going to college -- not exactly news...

Uh, pretty basic, overall population grows, but percentage of males as proportion of total student body declines. See above.


While women do earn more bachelor's degrees than men, according to the National Center for Education Statistics women are still far behind men in engineering (only 17 percent of graduates are women), computer and information sciences (27 percent) and the physical sciences (38 percent). As for "a dwindling share of men to fill top corporate jobs," in 1997-98 only 38.6 percent of master's degrees in business management and administrative services were earned by women. One must also ask, why focus on finding men for these positions?

Some feminists will be satisfied only when women dominate every single field of endeavor, so no suprise there. She continues:

Finally, I share Christina Hoff Sommers's curiosity as to what would happen in a country where women are "significantly more literate" and "more educated" than men. Rather than assuming a host of social problems, I anticipate that the pay gap between men and women might decrease (women currently make 76 percent of what men do), more women might hold political office (only 14 percent of members of Congress are women), and fewer women might live in poverty (in 2001, 12.5 percent of women in the United States lived in poverty compared with 9.9 percent of men).

One social problem will be fewer marriages, which bodes ill for society in general and children in particular. Solid research has shown that women strongly prefer to marry men who have more status/power/money than they do. Secondly, the 76% pay gap is a well-traveled bogus stat, comparing all women to all men. The misleading disparity is a combination of past practice--lots of 40- and 50-year-old women didn't go to college way back when, skewing earnings into their future--and current choices; all women will never follow the male pattern of rarely dropping out of the workforce to bear children, working longer hours to advance themselves, etc. Then the men die earlier than women, which on the bright side takes them out of poverty.

Kramer, the sole guy:

I am not the least bit worried about "the gender gap among college graduates." I know landscapers, carpenters, mechanics, electricians, plumbers and pest-control experts who make a great deal more money than I, a high school English teacher, ever will with my BA, MA and teaching certification on top of that. (You could say I have higher education coming out of my ears.)

You should be worried; despite your own experience with well-paid happy tradesmen who probably don't get the summer off. Holding a college degree is one of the strongest predictors of higher earning power. But you might want to have a coffee (or more likely Tequila) with Camille Paglia, who as I posted recently has some interesting observations on "reinvigorating the trades."

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