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The New Gender Gap

Dennis Friedman

IF I WERE STARTING my career all over again, I don’t know how well I’d fare in today’s economy. By contrast, if my dad were alive, he wouldn’t have any trouble finding work. He was good with his hands and could fix anything. He was a machinist by trade, but he could’ve easily been an electrician, plumber or carpenter.

All the disasters we’ve endured during the past few years have created an explosion in skilled, well-paid, blue-collar jobs. These are the folks helping to rebuild lives that have been upended by natural disasters such as wildfires and flooding. The pandemic has also created demand for these workers, as families seek to make their homes more comfortable and to create space where they can work remotely.

That brings me to the recent news—that far more women than men are attending college. Women currently make up almost 60% of college students. On a recent newscast, they said this gender gap will lead to twice as many women as men graduating from college. The reason: Men are more likely to drop out.

Aside from a boom in trade jobs for young men, the newscast mentioned other reasons for the disparity in college attendance:

  • For women without college degrees, there are fewer good-paying jobs.
  • More men seem to be deterred by the high cost of college and the insufficient return on this “investment.”
  • Rising anti-intellectualism, especially among men.
  • High school boys are spending too much time on video games, leaving them unprepared academically for college.

An expert on the newscast argued that the more people we educate, the more competitive we’ll be as a country. That seems reasonable. But there was one thing the expert said that did surprise me: He claimed that college-educated women are often reluctant to date a man with less education. If he’s right, that might spur some men to rethink their decision—and take a second look at college.

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