Women earned the majority of doctoral degrees in 2020 for the 12th straight year and outnumber men in grad school 148 to 100

The Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) released its annual report today on US graduate school enrollment and degrees for 2020 and this is an update of my annual post are the striking gender differences in graduate school enrollment and degrees.

1. For the 12th year in a row, women earned a majority of doctoral degrees awarded at US universities in 2020. Of the 76,111 doctoral degrees awarded in 2020 (Table B.25), women earned 40,037 of those degrees and 53.1% of the total, compared to 35,368 degrees awarded to men who earned 46.9% of the total (see top chart above). For every 100 men earning a doctoral degree last year, there were more than 113 female graduates. Women have now earned a majority of doctoral degrees in each academic year since 2008-2009, and the 53.1% female share last year is a new record-high. Previously, women started earning a majority of associate’s degrees for the first time in 1978, a majority of master’s degrees in 1981, and a majority of bachelor’s degrees in 1982 according to the Department of Education. Therefore, 2009 marked the year when men officially became the “second sex” in higher education by earning a minority of college degrees at all college levels from associate’s degrees to doctoral degrees. By overall enrollment in higher education men have been an underrepresented minority for more than 40 years since the late 1970s.

2. By field of study, women earning doctoral degrees in 2020 outnumbered men in 7 of the 11 graduate fields tracked by the CGS (see top chart above): Arts and Humanities (51.8% female), Biology (a new record-high 53.8% share in one of the main STEM fields, despite the frequent narrative that females are significantly under-represented in STEM), Education (67.8%), Health and Medical Sciences (71.4%, isn’t that another STEM field?), Public Administration (76.2%), Social and Behavioral Studies (61.3%) and Other Fields (53.2%). Men still earned a majority of 2020 doctoral degrees in the four fields of Business (53.3% male), Engineering (75.1%), Math and Computer Science (74.2%), and Physical and Earth Sciences (65.0%).

3. The middle chart above shows the gender breakdown for master’s degrees awarded in 2020 (from Table B.24) and the gender disparity in favor of females is significant – women earned more than 60% of all master’s degrees in 2020 setting a new record high female share, which would also mean that women earned almost 151 master’s degrees last year for every 100 degrees earned by men. Like for doctoral degrees, women outnumbered men in the same 7 out of the 11 fields of graduate study and in some of those fields, the gender disparity was huge. For example, women earned 421 master’s degrees in health and medical sciences for every 100 men, 408 master’s degrees in public administration for every 100 men, and 350 master’s degrees in education for every 100 men.

4. The bottom chart above displays total graduate enrollment in fall 2020 by gender and field for all graduate school programs in the US (certificate, master’s, and doctoral degrees from Table B.13), showing that there is a significant gender gap in favor of women for students attending US graduate schools. Women represent nearly 60% of all graduate students in the US (up from 58.5% in 2019), meaning that there are now 148 women enrolled in graduate school for every 100 men. In certain fields like Education (76.2% female), Health and Medical Sciences (78.4% female), and Public Administration (79.0% female), women outnumber men by a factor of three or more. By field of study, women enrolled in graduate school outnumber men in the same 7 out of the 11 graduate fields of study noted above, with females being a minority share of graduate students in only Business (46.5% female), Engineering (27.7% female), Math and Computer Science (32% female), and Physical and Earth Sciences (39.7% female).

MP: Here’s my prediction – the facts that: a) men are underrepresented in graduate school enrollment overall (only 100 men were enrolled in 2020 for every 148 women), b) men received fewer master’s (less than a 40% share of the total) and doctoral degrees (47% of the total) than women in 2020 and c) men were underrepresented in 7 out of 11 graduate fields of study at both the master’s and doctoral levels last year for both degrees and enrollment will get almost no attention at all from feminists, gender activists, women’s centers, the media, universities, or anybody else in the higher education industry.

Additionally, there will be no calls for taxpayer-funded studies or increased taxpayer funding to address the significant gender disparities favoring women in graduate schools, and nobody will refer to the gender graduate school enrollment and degree gaps favoring women as a problem or a national “crisis.” Further, despite their stated commitment to “gender equity,” the hundreds of university women’s centers around the country are unlikely to show any concern about the significant gender inequities in graduate school enrollment and degrees, and universities will not be allocating funding to set up men’s centers or men’s commissions on college campuses or providing funding for graduate scholarships for men to address male significant male under-representation.

Bottom Line: If there is any attention about gender differences in the CGS annual report, it will likely focus on the fact that women are a minority in 4 of the 11 fields of graduate study including engineering and computer science (a gender gap that some consider to be a “national crisis”), with calls for greater awareness of female under-representation in STEM graduate fields of study and careers (except for the two STEM fields of a) biology and b) health and medical sciences, where women have actually been over-represented for decades). But don’t expect any concern about the fact that men have increasingly become the second sex in higher education. The concern about gender imbalances will remain extremely selective, and will only focus on acadmic fields where women, not men, are underrepresented.

Exhibit A: In the CGS report the coverage of gender imbalances was mostly lamenting the underrepresentation of women in STEM, for example (note the tone and bias):

a. Institutions responding to the survey also reported that while

women constitute more than three quarters of
first-time graduate enrollment in fields of public administration and services (79.5%), health sciences (79.3%), and education (76.8%) in Fall 2020, they comprised much smaller portions of first-time enrollment in the fields of engineering (29.3%), mathematics and computer sciences (33.6%), and

physical and earth sciences (44.3%).

b. In Fall 2020, women comprised a larger share of first-time enrollees at the master’s and graduate certificate level (61.4%) than at the doctoral level (57.0%). Although women comprise the majority of  first-time graduate students overall, they were underrepresented at the master’s level in engineering (28.7%), mathematics and computer sciences (33.8%), and business (46.9%). Moreover, men comprised a majority of doctoral first-time enrollees in engineering (68.7%), mathematics and

computer sciences (69.5%), and physical and earth
sciences (60.5%).

c. The majority of graduate degrees and certificates awarded to women were in education, health sciences, public administration and services, and social and behavioral sciences. However, in many STEM fields, men still earned the majority of graduate degrees and certificates. Men earned about three-fourths of master’s degrees (72.2%) and doctoral degrees (75.1%) in engineering. Similarly, 64.5% of master’s degrees and 74.2% of doctoral degrees in mathematics and computer sciences were earned

by men. 

To conclude, let me pose a few questions, paraphrasing George Mason University economist Walter E. Williams: If America’s diversity worshipers see any female under-representation as a problem and possibly even as proof of gender discrimination, what do they propose should be done about female over-representation in higher education at every level and in 7 out of 11 graduate fields at the master’s and doctoral degrees? After all, to be logically consistent, aren’t female over-representation and female under-representation simply different sides of gender injustice? I’m sure the armies of diversicrats in higher education who profess to be so committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion won’t see it that way and will continue in their highly selective, inequitable, and one-sided concern about gender disparities favorin men in higher education that are limited to only certain STEM fields.

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