Women Continue to Make Education, Labor Gains

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A new Census report finds that for the first time, more women in the workforce have bachelor’s degrees than men (37 percent vs. 35). Women are gaining on the education front in general: for ages 25 to 29, 36 percent of women had a bachelor’s or advanced degree versus 28 percent for men. Women were also slightly more likely to have a high school diploma than men: for age 25 and above, it’s 87.6 percent versus 86.6 percent.

This is more evidence that men are increasingly falling behind women in the U.S. Back when the recession first began in December 2007, unemployment rates for men and women were roughly even — 5 percent and 4.8 percent respectively. But by August 2009, the two rates had diverged significantly, with unemployment among men at 10.9 percent, and only 8.2 percent for women. Which, according to the New York Fed, represented the largest unemployment gender gap since World War II.


I just read that women surpassed men with master's degrees as well.


One issue I'd like to see what the Freakonomics team think about is the possible role of attitudes towards risk and empathy in determining the gender income gap.

We know that a higher proportion of men engage in high-risk behaviours in driving, for example. A higher proportion of men also engage in low-empathy behaviour, such as recreational violence like soccer hooliganism. I wonder if these tendencies can explain two statistical observations:

a) Higher representation of men in politics and high business. My guess is that high-risk behaviour that takes little account of the suffering of others could sometimes produce massive profits and great success.

b) Higher representation of men in prison. This high-risk, low-empathy thing is also an aspect of much crime and could produce catastrophic failures.

I'm not sure about this. It just seemed possible that a lot of men could split into highly successful (CEOs and presidents) and highly unsuccessful (prisoners) based on this behaviour while most women would avoid either extreme. This may be rubbish, Freako-commentators can put me right if so!



As of 2008, 76% of public school teachers were female, and 52% of public school teachers had Masters degrees. I wonder how much this skew impacted the census numbers reported here (given the assumption that teaching positions have been eliminated at a lower rate than jobs in for-profit industries).


Unemployment calculates people without a job looking for work. How many more women stopped looking for work than men during this recession? Considering gender roles in the US, I wouldn't be surprised if many women converted into stay at home moms/wives which would bring them out of the labor force and thus lower the denominator.


Yeah! Males are doing worse! More equality!

a cruel accountant

The industries that women tend to be attracted to have suffered less contraction than the industries that men are attracted to in the greater recession. Currently, that is changing at the margins with manufacturing leading the economic recovery, a male dominated industry.