24 Pages Posted: 10 Mar 2008
Date Written: March 2004
The enrollment of women in American institutions of higher learning passed that of men for the first time in 1979. Women now make up about 56 percent of college students in the United States and earn about 57 percent of bachelor's degrees. Before the 1970s, however, men were much more likely to obtain a college education than women, despite the fact that women were somewhat more likely to graduate from high school. This paper documents trends in college attainment by gender during the twentieth century, with an emphasis on the post-1940 period, using educational statistics and analysis of U.S. Census and Current Population Survey data. It then explores some potential economic explanations for the dramatic closing and reversal of the gender gap, focusing on the potential role of returns to human capital.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Sundstrom, William A., The College Gender Gap in the United States, 1940-2000: Trends and International Comparisons (March 2004). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1104053 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1104053