Sunday, July 09, 2006

I Don't Get It -- Men at College Freakout Edition

The NYTimes published a big article on women outperforming men at college. Women now make up nearly 60 percent of college students and they get better grades them men. (For a very detailed account of the long run changes in female enrollment read this paper by Claudia Goldin, Lawrence Katz, and Ilyana Kuziemko.)

The article presents this trend as a problem that needs to be solved, but it never presents a reason why. The whole article seems based on the assumption that college should have equal proportions of men and women. But I don't see why this should be the case?

In fact, more women than men at college seems like the "natural" outcome. The article itself points out that young men face higher opportunity costs because they can make reasonably good salaries using their muscles. Further, apparently, men don't like school as much, so the effort cost of college is higher for them. Finally, according to the article, women earn higher financial returns from attending college. So men face higher marginal costs and lower marginal benefits than women, shouldn't we expect fewer men than women to attend college?

I am happy to consider arguments for why we should be concerned about this, but right now I don't get it.

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