Photo by the Lumina Foundation via Flickr.
Photo by the Lumina Foundation via Flickr.

Women now outnumber men in college enrollment and degree achievement. In 2010 women attained 57% of bachelor’s degrees in the U.S. Latino/a degree attainment follows this trend. In 2009 women achieved 61% of bachelor’s degrees awarded to Hispanics. New research by Sarah Ovink explains this success by illustrating how gender and race/ethnicity combine to influence college choices.

Ovink conducted interviews with 50 Latino/a high school seniors planning to attend college. Each student was interviewed three times: during senior year, at graduation, and six months after graduation. While both Latinos and Latinas believe the family’s needs should be privileged over one’s own, their behaviors and beliefs about how college relates to the family differs by gender. Latinos view college as a way to provide for future families. Latinas, on the other hand,  see college as a way for them to provide for their families now. Romantic relationships are seen as a threat to Latinas’ success in college, and similarly, college is understood as a way to achieve independence and avoid bad marriages.

At the time of the third interview, 52% of the women enrolled in 4-year schools, while only 35% of the men did. Thirteen percent of men and 4% of women changed their minds and did not attend college at all. Since Latinas’ autonomy is inextricably linked with their college attainment, many chose 4-year schools because of their belief that bachelor’s degrees produce better results. Latinos expressed no such urgency, as degrees were not viewed as essential to autonomy.

Read the full article here:

Ovink, S. M. 2013. “‘They Always Call Me an Investment’: Gendered Familism and Latino/a College Pathways.” Gender & Society 28(2):265–88.


Allison Nobles is a graduate student in Sociology at the University of Minnesota who studies gender, sexuality, and violence. Follow me on Twitter @Allison_Nobles.