Even Title IX advocates admit that higher educational attainment by gender suggests at best a balance between men and women—and at worst, a disadvantage for men.

Roughly an equal proportion of women and men have some college education (17 percent each), an associate’s degree (10 percent women, 8 percent men), or a master’s degree (9 percent women, 7 percent men). The proportion of women and men with bachelors, professional, and doctoral degrees, is also a statistical dead-heat with less than a single percentage-point advantage for men.

Rather than focus on the comparative handful of men and women at the higher-degree spectrum, policy makers should look as well at the opposite end of spectrum. Fully 5 percent of men and women 25 years and older have an eighth grade education or less—about five times as many Americans with professional or doctoral degrees. About as many Americans have a ninth to eleventh grade education as have master’s degrees. The highest proportion of Americans, more than 30 percent, has a high school education.


Education Level:                       Female             Male

None – 8th grade                       4.95%              5.26%

9th grade – 11th grade              7.02%              7.66%

High school graduate              30.23%            31.24%

Some college no degree        17.32%            16.60%

Associate's degree                  10.41%            8.42%

Bachelor's degree                    19.43%            19.56%

Master's degree                           8.47%              7.39%

Professional degree                   1.07%              1.92%

Doctoral degree                           1.10%              1.97%

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

Policymakers interested in increasing higher education degree attainment for all Americans should focus on the larger population apparently stuck at the elementary and secondary end of the education pipeline—and expand schooling options for parents.