What’s behind the growing gap between men and women in college completion?

Pew Research Center 

Kim Parker
November 8, 2021
The growing gender gap in higher education – both in enrollment and graduation rates – has been a topic of conversation and debate in recent months. Young women are more likely to be enrolled in college today than young men, and among those ages 25 and older, women are more likely than men to have a four-year college degree. The gap in college completion is even wider among younger adults ages 25 to 34.
Women’s educational gains have occurred alongside their growing labor force participation as well as structural changes in the economy. The implications of the growing gap in educational attainment for men are significant, as research has shown the strong correlation between college completion and lifetime earnings and wealth accumulation.
Financial considerations are a key reason why many don’t attend or complete college. Among adults who do not have a bachelor’s degree and are not currently enrolled in school, roughly four-in-ten (42%) say a major reason why they have not received a four-year college degree is that they couldn’t afford college. Some 36% say needing to work to help support their family was a major reason they didn’t get their degree.