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Our new gender gap

May 24, 2006
We've come across more evidence of a gender gap and it's not what you'd expect.

We've recently learned that women will soon outnumber men at college by a ratio of 3 to 2. That is, in the coming years 60 percent of college students will be women.

At first we assumed this just meant the numbers of women going to college were increasing while the number of men was staying constant, and this certainly would be a welcome trend.

But this is not the case.

The Union Leader reported that, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the proportion of 18- to 24-year-old female high school graduates enrolled in college increased from 25.1 percent to 45.6 percent from 1967 to 2000. The proportion of male high school graduates enrolled in college during that time frame declined from 44.7 percent to 40.9 percent.

This means two things: at the present time, there are more women than men pursuing higher education; and a greater overall percentage of women than men pursue higher education. What we find most troubling is the statistic that the proportion of men enrolled in post-secondary education actually declined over the past four decades.

Long-time readers of the Courier know our paper has discussed the importance of skilled labor in creating lasting economic gains for our North Country communities.

So we're concerned that fewer men are going to college, because this means that fewer will be able to take part in the high-tech (and high wage) economy of our region's future.

This could have a rippling effect throughout the demographics of the area. When there are markedly more educated women than men, marriage rates and birth rates are distorted.

Don't believe us? In highly educated Germany, nearly 40 percent of educated women have never had children. As a result, this country has one of the lowest birth rates in the world and an aging native-born population.

The cause behind it seems to be this: highly educated, professional women are having trouble finding male equals as partners. When that's added to the fact that these same women have many more professional and personal choices than their mothers and grandmothers used to, many are simply electing not to get married or have children.

If the downward trend in male college attendance continues, we fear the problem will only get worse. The result of this in future decades could be devastating: fewer two-parent homes and millions of men detached from family and mainstream society.

This is no idle problem: when men are not connected, economically and socially, to the stability of families, they are at greater risk for a whole host of social problems.

We raise this issue not to denigrate the success women have had in improving their lot over the past forty years. These are real achievements that deserve our support.

We raise this issue simply because we are concerned.

We urge the New Hampshire Commission on the Status of Men to tackle this problem.

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