Gender-Specific Trends in the Value of Education and the Emerging Gender Gap in College Completion

Thomas DiPrete, Duke University
Claudia Buchmann, Duke University

Analysis of March CPS data for 1964 through 2002 shows that white women overtook men in their rates of college completion, and that changes in the value of higher education are a plausible cause for this phenomenon. White female returns to higher education in the form of personal income remained higher than male returns for the entire period, but the trends in these returns do not provide a plausible interpretation for the shape of the male and female trajectories. Rather, the combination of (1) a stable personal income premium to higher education after 1980, (2) increasingly favorable marriage rates for the more educated, (3) educational homogamy, and (4) increasing income returns to education for men caused the impact of higher education on the standard of living of young adult families to grow more rapidly for females than males during the period when female-favorable trends in higher education began to emerge.

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Presented in Session 68: Determinants and Consequences of Educational Attainment