From Andrew Leigh of Imagining Australia:
Imagining Australia, Sororities Up, Frats Down: A fascinating paper by Claudia Goldin and Larry Katz looks at why women outnumber men in US universities (as they do in Australia). For every man graduating from a 4-year college in the US, 1.35 women graduate.* Their abstract:
Women are currently the majority college students and those receiving a B.A., but were 35 percent of undergraduates in 1960. Although the relative increase progressed steadily from the 1950s large changes occurred in the late 1960s and 1970s. Using three longitudinal data sets of high school graduates in 1957, 1972, and 1992 we show that the new gender gap in college was produced in several stages. From 1957 to 1972 high school girls increased their college going, however their high school course taking changed only slightly. But from 1972 to 1992 girls took substantially more math and science courses and showed greatly improved math and reading test scores relative to boys. These changes can account for one-third to one-half of the increase in women’s college completion rate relative to men’s. The expectations of young women about their future work were rapidly brought in line with reality between 1968 and 1979, enabling them to invest more appropriately in skills.
The most interesting fact-ette:
In all three surveys girls achieved higher grades in high school than did boys. In the WLS (graduating 1957) the high school rank of the median girl was 21 percentile points above the median boy. In the NLS (graduating 1972) the median girl was 16 percentile points above the median boy and the difference was almost 15 percentile points in the NELS (graduating [from high school] 1992).
* Apparently in some colleges in the US south, the ratio is now nearly 2 women for every man, which makes one wonder whether soon men will start attending university just so they can find a high-flying mate.
Some of the difference between male and female attendance can also be explained by a much larger fraction of women from low income homes attending college than low income men. As this report notes:
Black, Hispanic, and low-income students have lagged behind their peers for years. ... the growing gender gap within these groups has been well-documented ... There is little evidence to suggest that white, middle-class males are falling behind their female peers.
Here are some data from the report. The figures are a bit dated, and it is only one of many statistics examined, but it gives a sense of the findings:
I wonder if income level and college enrollment are related similarly in Australia?