Census: Women equal men in earning advanced degrees

According to 2009 U.S. census figures, women are virtually equal to men in obtaining advanced degrees. Nearly 6 in 10 advance degree holders between the ages of 25 and 29 are women.

The data show that among adults aged 25 and older, more women than men had high school diplomas and bachelor's degrees. Women already surpass men in undergraduate degrees by about 1.2 million.

Women have made steady increases in pursuing medical or law degrees, though they still lag in areas like business and engineering.

Other highlights according to the census report:

  • Overall, 87 percent of adults 25 and older had a high school diploma or more in 2009, with 30 percent holding at least a bachelor's degree.
  • Among women 25 and older with a bachelor's degree or more, 65 percent were married with a spouse present. The corresponding rate for men was 71 percent. For women and men with advanced degrees, the corresponding percentages were 66 percent and 76 percent.
  • The number of U.S. residents with bachelor's degrees or more climbed 34 percent between 1999 and 2009, from 43.8 million to 58.6 million.
  • More than half (53 percent) of Asians 25 and older had a bachelor's degree or more, much higher than the rate for non-Hispanic whites (33 percent), blacks (19 percent) and Hispanics (13 percent).
  • Among young adults 25 to 29, 35 percent of women and 27 percent of men possessed a bachelor's degree or more in 2009. This gap has grown considerably in the last decade: it was only 3 percentage points in 1999 (30 percent for women, 27 percent for men).

Despite the advances women have made, gender pay is still unequal. This article in Time asks the question: Why do women still earn less than men?

From Time:

U.S. women still earned only 77 cents on the male dollar in 2008, according to the latest Census stats. (That number drops to 68% for African-American women and 58% for Latinas.) To highlight the need for change, since 1996 the National Committee on Pay Equity, an advocacy-group umbrella organization, has marked April 20 as Equal Pay Day. There are some signs of progress: the first bill President Obama signed into law as president targeted the U.S. pay gap, and the Senate is currently considering another meant to address underlying discrimination. But the question remains: Why has it taken so long? Nearly half a century after it became illegal to pay women less on the basis of their sex, why do American women still earn less than men?

About the author

Daryl Paranada is the associate web producer for Marketplace overseeing all daily website content and production, as well as producing multimedia features -- including the popular economic explainer series Whiteboard -- and special projects. Follow him on Twitter @darylparanada.

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