By now it’s no secret: college enrollment is down, and it’s way down among men. In fact, the gender gap is the widest it’s ever been in the history of higher education, with women making up roughly 60% of college students in the U.S. The gulf represents a decades-long trend that is showing no signs of letting up. Fewer men earning college degrees than their female counterparts has become a vexing problem with wide-ranging socioeconomic implications, several Northeastern experts say.
“Higher female college-going makes sense,” says Mindy Marks, associate professor of economics at Northeastern. “The returns from a college degree have gone up, so the earning’s difference, for both genders, between what you can earn with a college degree versus not, has risen over time.” It’s “Economics 101,” whose research includes the relationship between academic time investment and future earnings. “Women do exactly what the model predicts,” she says. “Really the puzzle isn’t about women, it’s about men.” Its impacts can be felt not only in the workforce, where women are still lagging behind men but are projected to eclipse them, but in the dating and marriage markets, Marks says.