Sunday, February 07, 2010

Where Which Boys Are

Mark Perry (via) of the American Enterprise Institute trumpets a Bureau of Labor Statistics report on continued gender disparities in higher education, less to forward any sensible solutions on sending more men to college than to attack "gender activists" who will presumably ignore the results.
1. This huge gender gap will receive almost no media attention, and will be largely ignored by the gender activists.

2. There will be no calls for government studies, or increased government funding to address the “problem,” and nobody will refer to this gender degree gap as a “national crisis,” the way former astronaut Sally Ride described the gender disparity for jobs in engineering, technology, and science (women hold only 25 percent of those jobs).

3. President Obama will not address the gender degree gap by signing an executive order creating the “White House Council on Men and Boys,” like he did last year for women and girls.

4. Neither Obama, Congress, nor the gender activists in academia will address the gender degree gap by invoking Title IX gender-equity law, like they have proposed using for the gender gap in some math and science programs (see here and here).

5. Nobody will blame the gender degree gap on structural barriers from grades K–12 that discourage men from attending or graduating from college, like they do for explaining the gender gap for women in math and science.

In other words, the standard “disparity-proves-discrimination” dogma, followed by calls for government intervention, will not be applied in this case of a huge gender imbalance in college completion by age 22, because the disparity favors women, not men.

Well, not quite. Because there is are two variables that Mr. Perry is, quite predictably, missing: Race, and class.

Let's be clear -- there is a gender gap in higher education among all races (except Asians -- they're essentially even). A study from the American Council on Education found that in 2007-08, 46% of all undergraduates under age 24 are men (an 8 point gap). For White men, that figure is 47% (so a 6 point gap). For Hispanic men, it's 42% -- a 16 point gap. And for African-American men, it's 41% -- a whopping 18 percentage point gap. (There's also evidence that a college degree is worth less for people of color due to post-graduation discrimination, but that's a separate matter).

As for class, the data shows that the gender gap is intricately connected to income. Again in 2007-08, for the highest income quartile there is no true gender gap at all: 51% of White undergraduates, 52% of Asian undergraduates, and 48% of Hispanic and Black undergraduates are men. For the bottom quartile, by contrast, only 45% of Asian, 44% of White, and 42% of Black and Hispanic undergraduates are men.

The problem, in other words, isn't really with "men" as a class. White men comprise 47% of White college attendees, which isn't bad, given that men are around 49% of the population. Where things get hairy is when we focus in on men of color, and poorer men of all races. I have no trouble asserting that these classes of people are badly failed by our educational system; and that we should be more aggressive in finding tailored solutions for helping them (and there are groups working to address the problem).

But to frame the problem in such a way so as to assert that the men who went to, say, my alma mater (Walt Whitman HS in Bethesda, Maryland) are in a serious way disadvantaged, much less a "second sex", vis-a-vis our female peers borders on delusional -- it obscures far more than it illuminates. The men who are facing discrimination are members of the usual suspects in American society: the poor, and racial minorities. And in general, it is the progressive movement of which those maligned gender-activists are a part that have taken the lead in trying to advocate for these classes.


Anonymous said...
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joe said...

I guess Mr. Perry thinks if he hollers loud enough this will make us forget about the disparities in pay and political representation.

PG said...

Perry's also just wrong factually in his claims that no remedial action has been taken in response to the gender gap. The disparity on some campuses apparently has led to affirmative action on behalf of men.