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Mar 30 2008

Statistics for Fun

I got into a little slapfight on a blog this week with someone who claimed, among other things, that, “We do know that rates of young men entering college these days is in the toilet”. There were no citations, of course, because that isn’t the point of a slapfight, but it made me curious. So as long as I was avoiding some particularly tedious work this weekend, I thought I’d find out.

Answer: um, no.

And no.

Sure, enrollment rates among males aren’t growing as quickly as among females, and achievement among females has finally caught up. There was perhaps reason for concern when male enrollment dropped from 1970 to 1980, although there were extra incentives for young men to be in college in 1970 that didn’t apply in 1980. All in all, though, it’s a bit much to be calling record-high levels of enrollment and achievement “in the toilet.”

Next time, I’ll tell him so.

Sources
U.S. Census Table A-1. Years of School Completed by People 25 Years and Over, by Age and Sex: Selected Years 1940 to 2007
U.S. Census Table A-6. Age Distribution of College Students 14 Years Old and Over, by Sex: October 1947 to 2005
U.S. Census population data by age and sex

2 comments

  1. 1
    Delayed Deconstructions

    I wouldn’t say it is wrong to say that it is in the toilet: maybe it is just “getting its ass kicked by women “who are encouraged to show up, whereas men and young boys are not? So maybe “three girls behind the toilet seat in the uni-sex bathroom” is more accurate…?

  2. 2
    Stephanie Zvan

    I’ve been doing some thinking about the enrollment rates. I think there are a couple of factors.The first is that we live in a classed society, even if most of us won’t talk about it. We tell girls, “You can be whatever you want to be. No, really. No matter what the boys are telling you or you see around you.” I think that’s still an important message, but in light of the unexamined class messages all kids get, it’s going to sound a little different. More like, “You too can be at the top of the heap,” and less like, “Anything you want to do is fine with us.”The second thing I see is that the well-paying trades are still held mostly by men, particularly the unionized ones. I don’t think you can chalk this up to women not wanting to take manual labor jobs–cleaning and nursing can both take incredible amounts of work and both are done mostly by women. I think the trade unions could do a lot more to reach out to women, and I think organized feminism could do much more to encourage them.In short (ha!), I suspect the direction of the new gap is caused by the kinds of jobs that kids are told are acceptable and open to them. Modern “women’s work” just requires more education.

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