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Saturday, September 18, 2021

Why women being more college educated than men is troubling for society

A generation of white men who grew up hearing that the problem with American institutions is that there are too many white men in them apparently has been listening. 

College attendance by men, and by white men in particular, has declined steeply relative to attendance by women. As a remarkable Wall Street Journal report has it, men today make up only two out of five college students, and the men who do enroll are less likely to graduate than the women. 

Over the coming years, two women will earn a college degree for every man who does. Among white men, those who come from low-income households attend college at lower rates than do Latino and African-American men from similar backgrounds. The problem has become so extreme some colleges have started discriminating against female entrants and admitting less qualified men, to maintain a more balanced female-male ratio on campus. 

Kevin Carey of The New York Times sniffed a little at his competitor’s report, noting that men still occupy the commanding heights of much of the business world and many cultural institutions — as though the residual wealth and status of men born before the moon landing somehow transfers to those born after 9/11. 

But the Journal’s report did produce something of a miracle, with Carey complaining that admissions policies meant to increase the share of men in the student body “discriminate against women.” Conservatives have been insisting for decades that preferences for any group must come at the expense of others. (That this truth has dawned upon our progressive friends so suddenly is a reminder that Asian Americans are a couple of steps behind white women in the victimhood hierarchy.) 

Men who enroll in college are now less likely to graduate than women, according to a new report.
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Failing to earn a college degree means more young men will be living with their parents into their twenties and working low-wage jobs. A non-college worker will earn on average about $1 million less over the course of his working life than a college graduate. 

In 2008, a counselor at the University of Vermont, worried about the mental health toll on men, proposed creating a men’s center at the school. The effort was shot down as feminists complained about investing resources in a “privileged” class of student. Today, 60 percent of the students on that campus are women. There are more than 500 women’s centers on American college campuses. 

There are many reasons why men, and white men in particular, are staying away from campus. Some of it is that they do not feel welcome there both as a matter of institutional culture and of practical life: As that Vermont counselor noted, men on his campus are more likely to be formally punished for alcohol-related offenses than women who engaged in the same misbehavior. Many men aren’t especially eager to engage in the political theater of neo-Maoist self-denunciation. Others have concluded that a college degree is unlikely to bring with it benefits worth the expense. Still others are simply lost in a miasma of aimlessness. 

Many young males feel left out of today's society, leading to feelings of despair.
Many young males feel left out of today’s society, leading to feelings of despair.
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The men are unhappy, which means that the women are going to be unhappy, too — if not while they are in college, then a few years down the road. Women are hesitant to marry men with lower incomes or educational levels than their own, and a study by Harvard sociology professor Alexandra Killewald found that divorce rates were substantially higher — a third higher, in fact — among couples in which the wife out-earned the husband. 

Some of the crisis among American men is rooted in identity politics — intersectionality hysteria and all that. But some of it is organic, too: With each passing year, traditionally male virtues such as physical strength become less valuable economically and less relevant socially, while many traditionally male personality traits, such as aggressiveness and social assertiveness, are genuine liabilities in the new corporate culture.

Which is to say, this doesn’t look like a crisis from the HR department at Google or the admissions office at Princeton. But the view from the rarefied circles where policy is made is rather different to the view from the street where life is lived. 

Oh well, at least young white men get to enjoy their “privilege,” right?

Kevin D. Williamson is the author of “Big White Ghetto: Dead Broke, Stone-Cold Stupid, and High on Rage in the Dank Woolly Wilds of the ‘Real America.’”

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