Study: Women Outnumber Male
Friday, April 28,
Female undergraduates outnumber male undergraduates
nationally, a trend that Harvard has been slow to mirror,
according to a study published this month by three Harvard
Lee Professor of Economics Claudia Goldin, Allison
Professor of Economics Lawrence F. Katz, and Dunster House
resident tutor Ilyana Kuziemko, who wrote the study, said
women now make up 57 percent of the national undergraduate
population, compared to 39 percent in 1960.
The study, titled "The Homecoming of American College
Women: The Reversal of the College Gender Gap," was published
online by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) and
examines the reasons why females now constitute a majority of
undergraduate students across the nation.
According to the paper, the reversal of the college gender
gap is due to "the persistence of behavioral and developmental
differences between males and females."
The gender gap started growing at liberal arts colleges in
the 1990s. Experts say that men preferred larger colleges or
engineering and business programs not available at liberal
arts colleges, according to insidehighered.com, an online
More recently though, the gender gap has spread to larger
universities, such as the University of North Carolina at
Chapel Hill where females comprise 58 percent of the class of
2009. Even at Harvard, females overtook males for the first
time in the number of admitted students to the Class of 2010,
according to IvySuccess.com.
For the class of 2010, 51.8 percent of admitted applicants
were females, up from 49.5 percent in 2009. The undergraduate
student body as a whole has an even distribution between males
The gender gap at Harvard trails the national statistics
presented in the Harvard study because "the more selective the
college, the lower will be the ratio of females to males even
if admissions were on a gender-blind basis," said Goldin. The
reason for this is that the most dominant female-to-male
ratios occur among lower socioeconomic status families, while
the ratio among wealthier families is more balanced.
Katz said that "since Harvard tends to draw from the higher
part of the [socioeconomic status] and high school performance
distribution [this] would mean even with gender-blind
admissions policies that Harvard would tend to have a lower
female share than a typical elite school."
While a large gender gap has not yet arrived at Harvard, it
is not a surprise that the gap has developed in general,
according to Kuziemko.
"In the past 20-30 years, the typical high school girl has
significantly raised her test scores, grades, and the
difficulty of her classes relative to the typical high school
boy," she said.
The NBER paper also attributes the rise in female
undergraduate participation to the rise in women's labor force
participation and the increase in the average age for women
getting married for the first time.