In the U.S. today, men enroll in college at a lower rate and drop out at a higher rate. In 2005, there were 57 women on campus for every 43 men.

This is such a significant problem, that college admissions officers are letting in a larger percentage of male applicants, even sometimes admitting less qualified men over more qualified women.

But this isn’t just a gender story.

A USA Today story offered this data from the ACE Center for Policy and Analysis:


Looking at the very bottom line of the table (and just at 2003/2004), you can see that the gender gap is largest among lower income students.  Men make up 40% of undergraduates 18-24 when you consider low-income students only, and 49% when you look at upper income students.

The gender gap also correlates with race.  Asian students show the smallest gender gap, whites the next smallest, with Hispanics and blacks trailing.

You might notice that the correlation of the gender gap with race mirrors the class correlation.  That is, income and wealth data for racial categories follows the same pattern with Asians out earning whites (categorically speaking) and whites out earning Hispanics and blacks.  So there may be an interesting exacerbation effect here.

The gender gaps for each racial/ethnic group, however, decreases as the students’ families get richer.  And, among the upper income groups, the racial difference shrinks to only three percentage points (from 11 among low- and middle-income kids).

So, it’s not just about race, it’s not just about class, and it’s not just about gender.  Then, what is it about being poor, black or Hispanic, andmale that results in low male enrollment in college and a higher drop out rate?


Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.