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Women and College Degrees, 2019

I saw an opinion piece in Insider Higher Ed this week, and this statistic jumped out at me: Four-year institutions are graduating a third more women than men. 

It's not that the statistic was surprising, of course.  Almost everyone who has looked at higher ed data knows the increasing educational attainment of women has been one of most notable trends in our profession.  (Of course, the real story is the reason women didn't have higher attainment prior up until now.)

If you look at this NCES Digest of Education Statistics table, and do a little math, you can see the trend for yourself. In 1970, women made up only 35% of all college enrollment; by 1988, that figure had risen to 50%, and by 2019, it was 60%.

This trend mirrors bachelor's degrees as well.  In 2019, about 58% of BAs were awarded to women, and 42% to men.  While the trend is remarkably consistent across all Carnegie types, regions, and levels of control, the statistics between and among individual institutions vary remarkably. 

This visualization shows five views using the tabs across the top:

  • Hi-level is a non-interactive summary, broken out by control
  • By Carnegie shows some interesting differences by Carnegie Institutional Type
  • All or no degrees to women show those institutions that awarded all or none of their bachelor's degrees to women in 2019.  Note that while there is still a good number of traditional women's colleges, the vast majority of those institutions awarding all degrees to men is Yeshivas.
  • The scattergram arrays the total number of degrees and the percentage to women.  Blues are more men than women; purples are more women than men; grays are fairly even (47% to 53%).  Use the filters to select Carnegie group or region.  Use the highlighter to emphasize a particular college.
  • Distribution breaks the percentage of degrees to women broken into categories.  Again, use the filters to limit the selection.
The patterns should be obvious, but as always, let me know what you see that jumps out at you.


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