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By the Numbers: Gender Gap in Higher Education Holding Steady



According to a new report from the American Council on Education, the gender gap in higher education appears to be stabilizing for most groups except Hispanics, for whom the gap between men and women continues to rise.
A follow-up to ACE ’s original 2000 study and 2006 update, Gender Equity in Higher Education: 2010 focuses on the extent to which enrollment and degree attainment vary between men and women. The report indicates that, for the first time, the distribution of enrollment and undergraduate degrees by gender has remained about the same since 2000, with men representing 43 percent of enrollment and earning 43 percent of bachelor’s degrees.
One group for which the gap has not stabilized, however, is Hispanics. In 2007–08, for instance, the percentage of male Hispanics aged 24 or younger who were enrolled in higher education fell to 42 percent from 45 percent in 1999–2000. In addition, the Hispanic young men’s bachelor’s degree–attainment rate remains low at 10 percent, while the rates for Hispanic women’s bachelor’s degree attainment have increased.
The report cites immigration as a major factor affecting the educational attainment of Hispanics in the United States. Hispanics born outside the United States completed high school and college at much lower rates than their native peers.
Highlights from Gender Equity in Higher Education: 2010 include the following:
  • The gender gap in undergraduate enrollment appears to have reached a plateau for most groups since 1999–2000, with one important exception: traditional-aged Hispanics.
  • Women’s success does not come at the expense of men: The number of bachelor’s degrees awarded to men is also on the rise, as it is for women.
  • For two groups of men—whites and Hispanics—bachelor’s degree–attainment rates remain flat, even though the number of degrees awarded is on the rise. This is because the overall population of these two groups has grown faster than the college-educated population.
  • Educational attainment for Hispanics is affected by low attainment levels for immigrant Hispanic males, who represent one of every three Hispanic young adults. Only half of young adult Hispanic immigrants have completed high school, and less than 10 percent have earned a bachelor’s degree.
  • The gender gap substantially decreases among dependent undergraduates aged 24 or younger as family income rises.
To access the report, please visit the Center for Policy Analysis page on the ACE web site ( and click the Publications link.