Women From Upper-Income Families Are Fueling the Gender Gap in Higher Education

A new working paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research authored by Martha J. Bailey and Susan M. Dynarski of the University of Michigan, examines 70 years of enrollment data on American higher education. The data shows that one of the major reasons for the enrollment gains of women in higher education over the past several decades is due to a huge increase in the number of women attending college from higher income families.

For men, since 1980 there has been a slight increase in inequality in higher education enrollments between students from lower income and higher income families. But for women inequality for students from lower income and higher income families has increased substantially. The authors state, “Inequality in educational attainment has risen more sharply among women than among men. This is driven by rapid increases among women from upper-income families, who have pulled away from other women, and all men, in their educational attainment.”

Martha J. Bailey is an assistant professor of economics at the University of Michigan. She is a graduate of Agnes Scott College and holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in economics from Vanderbilt University.

Susan M. Dynarski is an associate professor of public policy and an associate professor of education at the University of Michigan. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in economics from MIT.

Filed Under: EnrollmentsResearch/Study


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