gender differences and educational attainment

Susan Dynarski, of the Kennedy School and NBER, released a new paper in May titled, “Cradle to College: The Puzzle of Gender Differences in Educational Outcomes.” She has some fascinating findings that I think are worth highlighting.

  • Women account for nearly all of the recent growth in the education levels of the labor force.
  • Between 1979 and 2005, the percentage of of 29-year-olds with a B.A. rose from 23 percent to 32 percent. Men contributed one percentage point to the increase while women contributed the other eight.

In general, Dynarski provides data that suggests that women are much more responsive to changes in the cost of college. Dynarski writes, “a drastic reduction in the cost of college substantially increases the college enrollment and completion rates of women, but has no impact upon men.” She concludes that a policies which make college cheaper will increase enrollment but will also widen the gender gap.

For those interested in expanding Pell Grants, is this an acceptable trade-off?


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