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May 2012 - Volume 20, Number 2


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Affirmative Action for Men?

by the Education Reporter, Eagle Forum,
April 2012, Issue Number 315, reprinted with permission


A recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics highlighted an illuminating new statistic: for every 100 men who have a bachelor’s degree by age 24, 148 women of the same age do. 24-year-old women are also less likely to be high school dropouts or high school graduates not enrolled in college than their male counterparts. The report states that, since nearly the same number of men and women are enrolled in college at age 24, the gap in educational attainment is unlikely to close.


This educational gender gap led the Richmond Times-Dispatch to ask on March 9 whether colleges and universities ought to adopt affirmative action for men.


In every other academic realm, the existence of a statistical disparity — such as the fact that fewer women than men pursue advanced degrees in certain science and technology fields — is taken as definitive proof of gender discrimination.


For instance, in 2010 the American Association of University Women lamented the “striking disparity between the numbers of men and women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics,” and concluded “we must take a hard look at the stereotypes and biases that still pervade our culture. Encouraging more girls and women to enter these vital fields will require careful attention to the environment in our classrooms and workplaces and throughout our culture.”


We look forward to a robust debate on how institutions of higher learning can correct the discriminatory circumstances that are leading them to graduate nearly three women for every two men.


Existing affirmative action-like policies have been found to benefit men more than women, making the gender gap even more revealing. Scott Jaschik, editor of Inside Higher Ed, told CBS news last fall,


Men are being admitted with lower grades and test scores. While a lot of people don’t like to talk about it, a lot of colleges are basically doing affirmative action for men. . . . Many people think that is not good for the educational needs of the country — that you don’t want men left behind . . . And it’s also not seen as desirable for the social environment of the colleges.


James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal called the disparity “no laughing matter” and wrote on March 14 that it “ought to alarm anyone who cares about America’s future.” That’s because women of all cultures typically prefer to “marry up” — and, as Taranto puts it,


. . . the disproportionate number of female high achievers makes it difficult for them to find men who meet their standards of marriageability. . . . If high-status women outnumber high-status men, the former will have a very hard time finding suitable husbands even when they are still young. That would seem to be the future that awaits today’s college-educated American women.


Iowa Specific Note:

In Iowa, as of fall 2011, college enrollment reflected the same trends with 220 women enrolled for every 142 men, a 3-2 ratio. While the University of Iowa and Iowa State University both had more men enrolled, the University of Northern Iowa and virtually all other four-year and two-year colleges, both public and private, in Iowa had more women than men enrolled.


Source: College enrollment data taken from the “College Enrollment and Work Activity of 2011 High School Graduates,” U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 19, 2012. Iowa-specific data taken from the “Iowa College and University Enrollment Report,” Fall 2011, Iowa Coordinating Council on Post-High School Education.



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