In generations past, a gender gap existed in educational achievement in that men graduated from college at greater rates than women. This gap has now reversed, as women graduate from college in greater rates than men.
In 1960, twice as many men graduated from college as women (statistics come from Lehigh University College of Education). Women caught up by the mid-1980s and surged ahead, as women now make up about 57% of college graduates. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, women earn college degrees at a rate one third greater than that of men.
Experts continue to debate the factors resulting in this gender gap. Some believe that the attention focused on the educational achievement of girls in recent decades has detracted attention from boys. Others argue that education is not a zero-sum game and that attention devoted to girls doesn't mean attention isn't paid to boys. Other experts believe that schools are more attuned to the educational needs of girls than to those of boys. In other words, schools are more friendly to the needs of girls than boys, who may need more active kinds of learning. Boys are now suspended from school at greater rates than girls, and they are more often diagnosed with attention problems than girls are. Finally, other experts believe that educational achievement is more about race and socio-economic status and that the gender gap is smaller or even not present when factors like race and socio-economic status are considered.
The short-term effects of the gender gap are that more women are graduating from college (as stated above, 57% of college graduates are women). The longer-term effects are harder to figure out for now. For example, even though women graduate with a bachelor's degree at higher numbers than men, women still earn less than men. For each dollar a man earns, a woman earns an average of 77 cents. In addition, top management jobs in Fortune 500 companies are mostly held by men (less than 5% are held by women). However, the education gap is starting to affect men. In the recent recession, the majority of the layoffs affected men, not women, as men held the types of manufacturing jobs that did not require college degrees and that were unfortunately subject to layoffs. Therefore, the economy might be shifting more towards favoring jobs held by women (including jobs such as nursing and education).