June 19 2012

Title IX: Higher Education Barriers—Not Gender Discrimination—the Real Culprit Behind Small Portion of Degrees

Vicki E. Alger

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex-based discrimination in federally supported educational programs and activities. Sexual harassment and college athletics typically receive the most attention; however, Title IX covers several additional key areas, including access to higher education.

According to Title IX proponents such as the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), “In many cases women still lag behind men in earning doctoral and professional degrees, particularly in nontraditional disciplines like math and science. Women receive, for example, only 18 percent of undergraduate engineering degrees and 12 percent of doctoral engineering degrees, due in large part to the hostile environment many face in these fields.”

Actual statistics and labor projections suggest that women are basing degree decisions on personal preferences and hard-nosed economics—not fear and trembling.

As it is, few Americans actually hold undergraduate and graduate degrees. Among the nearly 202 million Americans who are 25 years and older, only 20 percent have college degrees; 8 percent have master’s degrees; and less than 2 percent have a professional or doctoral degree as of 2011. (See Detailed Tables, table 2.)

 

% of Americans:

Some college no degree            16.97%

Associate's degree                      9.45%

Bachelor's degree                     19.49%

Master's degree                          7.95%

Professional degree                     1.48%

Doctoral degree                          1.52%

* Author’s percentages based on 2011 data from the U.S. Census Bureau for Americans 25 years and older.

 

Sex-based discrimination cannot explain away such small percentages. On the contrary, these figures suggest the majority of Americans—men and women alike—are confronting higher-education barriers.

Policymakers should focus on leading higher-education barriers facing all Americans, including poor preparation, affordability, and limited flexible continuing education options. (See: here, here, here, here, and here.)

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