The Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) released its annual report Wednesday on US graduate school enrollment and degrees for 2017 and here are some of the more interesting findings in this year’s report:
1.) For the ninth year in a row, women earned a majority of doctoral degrees awarded at US universities in 2017. Of the 79,738 doctoral degrees awarded in 2017 (Table B.25), women earned 41,717 of those degrees and 53% of the total, compared to 37,062 degrees awarded to men who earned 47% of the total (see top chart above). Women have now earned a majority of doctoral degrees in each academic year since 2009, and the 53% female share last year is a new record high. Previously, women started earning a majority of associate’s degrees for the first time in 1978, a majority of master’s degrees in 1981, and a majority of bachelor’s degrees in 1982 according to the Department of Education. Therefore, 2009 marked the year when men officially became the “second sex” in higher education by earning a minority of college degrees at all college levels from associate’s degrees to doctoral degrees.
2.) By field of study, women earning doctoral degrees in 2017 outnumbered men in 7 of the 11 graduate fields tracked by the CGS (see top chart above): Arts and Humanities (53.2% female), Biology (52.6% in one of the main STEM fields, despite the frequent narrative that females are so under-represented in STEM), Education (69.8%), Health and Medical Sciences (70.3%, isn’t that another STEM field?), Public Administration (75.6%), Social and Behavioral Studies (61,1%) and Other fields (52.4%). Men still earned a majority of 2017 doctoral degrees in the fields of Business (51.1% male), Engineering (76.6%), Math and Computer Science (74.9%), and Physical and Earth Sciences (65.9%).
3.) The middle chart above shows the gender breakdown for master’s degrees awarded in 2017 (from Table B.24) and the gender disparity in favor of females is significant – women earned 57.3% of all master’s degrees in 2017, which would also mean that women earned more than 134.2 master’s degrees last year for every 100 degrees earned by men. Like for doctoral degrees, women outnumbered men in the same 7 out of the 11 fields of graduate study and in some of those fields the gender disparity was huge. For example, women earned 400 master’s degrees in health and medical sciences for every 100 men, more than 358 master’s degrees in public administration for every 100 men and 339 master’s degrees in education for every 100 men.
4.) The bottom chart above displays total graduate enrollment in fall 2017 by gender and field for all graduate school programs in the US (certificate, master’s and doctoral degrees from Table B.13), showing that there is a significant gender gap in favor of women for students attending US graduate schools. Women represent 57.9% of all graduate students in the US, meaning that there are now more than 137 women enrolled in graduate school for every 100 men. In certain fields like Education (75% female), Health and Medical Sciences (78% female) and Public Administration (77.3%), women outnumber men by a factor of three or more. By field of study, women enrolled in graduate school outnumber men in the same 7 out of the 11 graduate fields of study noted above, with females being a minority share of graduate students in only Business (45.8% female), Engineering (25.2% female), Math and Computer Science (32.1% female), and Physical and Earth Sciences (37.7% female).
MP: Here’s my prediction – the facts that:
a) men are underrepresented in graduate school enrollment overall (100 men were enrolled in 2017 for every 137.5 women),
b) men received fewer master’s (less than 43% of the total) and doctoral degrees (47% of the total) than women in 2017 and
c) men were underrepresented in 7 out of 11 graduate fields of study at both the master’s and doctoral levels last year will get no attention at all from feminists, gender activists, women’s centers, the media, universities, or anybody else in the higher education industry.
Additionally, there will be no calls for government studies or increased government funding to address the significant gender disparities favoring women in graduate schools, and nobody will refer to the gender graduate school enrollment and degree gaps favoring women as a problem or a national “crisis.” Further, despite their stated commitment to “gender equity,” the hundreds of university women’s centers around the country are unlikely to show any concern about the significant gender inequities in graduate school enrollment and degrees, and universities will not be allocating funding to set up men’s centers or men’s commissions on college campuses or providing funding for graduate scholarships for men to address male under-representation.
Bottom Line: If there is any attention about gender differences in the CGS annual report, it will likely focus on the fact that women are a minority in 4 of the 11 fields of graduate study including engineering and computer science (a gender gap that some consider to be a “national crisis”), with calls for greater awareness of female under-representation in STEM graduate fields of study and careers (except for the two STEM fields of a) biology and b) health and medical sciences, where women have actually been over-represented for decades). But don’t expect any concern about the fact that men have increasingly become the second sex in higher education. The concern about gender imbalances will remain extremely selective, and will only focus on cases when women, not men, are underrepresented and in the minority.
To conclude, let me pose a few questions, paraphrasing George Mason University economist Walter E. Williams: If America’s diversity worshipers see any female under-representation as a problem and possibly even as proof of gender discrimination, what do they propose should be done about female over-representation in higher education at every level and in 7 out of 11 graduate fields at the master’s and doctoral degrees? After all, to be logically consistent, aren’t female over-representation and female under-representation simply different sides of gender injustice? I’m sure the armies of diversicrats in higher education who profess to be so committed to diversity, equity and inclusion won’t see it that way, and will continue in their highly selective, inequitable and one-sided concern about gender disparities in graduate schools.
Mark J. Perry is concurrently a scholar at AEI and a professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan's Flint campus. He is best known as the creator and editor of the popular economics blog Carpe Diem. At AEI, Perry writes about economic and financial issues for American.com and the AEIdeas blog.