I don’t mean to be picking on Brad Wilcox, but I can’t resist commenting on this post. Bouncing off a Washington Post article entitled “Disappearing Act,” about the alleged decline of male college enrollment, Brad writes:
The problem is that both Brad and the Washington Post article are getting facts wrong. For instance, is average Joe falling behind average Jane economically? Sure doesn’t look like it. Here are some charts showing median earnings of Hispanic, black and white men and women at different levels of education (these charts are based on 2000 income data compiled by the Census Bureau).
For literally as long as we’ve been measuring, men with less education have earned more than women with more education. So, contrary to Brad’s expectations, there’s no reason to think that women’s advantage in education is going to reverse men’s advantages economically.
Second, while it’s true that women are now more likely to attend college, it’s not because men are “disappearing.” It’s because women have been increasing their rate of college attendance faster than men have been. As Robin Herman writes (hat tip: Jill at Feministe):
But at the same time, in 1983 only 21 percent of American college-aged women were enrolled in college, and that number climbed more steeply to 41 percent of all college-aged women two decades later.
I do think it’s legitimate to want more young men to attend college. But what’s going on is not a “crisis” of “disappearing men,” nor are men “falling behind” in any larger cultural sense.
Furthermore, the state of men today is not comparable to the state of women in the 1970s (or the 1870s!), when feminists took up the issue of small numbers of women going to college. The issue for feminists was not college education alone, but the things college education could lead to: The ability of women to earn independent livings, so that women would have possibilities in life other than low-pay work or being supported by fathers and husbands. Men as a whole – even those who don’t go to college – are not in a comparable situation.
But some men – mainly black men and Hispanic men – are in a comparable situation.
What’s amazing to me is that neither Brad’s post, nor the Washington Post, nor this silly National Review article that Hugo takes apart, mention the word “race.” It’s not really possible to discuss this issue in any serious way without talking about race as well as class.
Unfortunately, this chart (source) doesn’t account for wealth, but it does provide a look at college attendance, sex and race. (Click on the chart to view a larger version).
Women (especially black and Hispanic women) have been increasing their rates of college attendance faster than men – but the gap between white men and women is relatively narrow, and it’s only among Hispanic men that the rates of attendance have actually gone down.
So a better question is not where are the missing men, but where are the missing Black and Latino men and their poor White counterparts? The gender gap can only be understood by taking an intersectional approach. The typical suburban White guy still goes to college, but many other men do not.