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In Virtue/Vice, Dr. Christine B. Whelan blogs about news, books, scientific and psychological research and her general musings about virtue and vice in our everyday lives.


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November 17th, 2010

Advanced Women, Backward Gender Norms


advancedwomen-flashNew from the Census: Among young Americans, women hold nearly 60% of advanced degrees.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported today more women than men are expected to occupy professions such as doctors, lawyers and college professors as they represent approximately 58 percent of young adults, age 25 to 29, who hold an advanced degree. In addition, among all adults 25 and older, more women than men had high school diplomas and bachelor’s degrees.

Study highlights:

  • We’re getting more educated as a population in general: Overall, 87% of adults 25 and older had a high school diploma or more in 2009, and 30% of those hold at least a bachelor’s degree, continuing the steady rise for the 60 million Americans who have a college degree.
  • Among young adults, ages 25 – 29, the girls are pulling way ahead of the guys in terms of education: 35 percent of women and 27 percent of men possessed a bachelor’s degree or more in 2009, a gap that continues to widen.
  • The success penalty for highly educated women is a thing of the past: Among women 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree or more, 65% were married with a spouse present. For women with an advanced degree-there was no dreaded success penalty: 66% were married with a spouse present.
  • The race disparity in education is still cause for concern. 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).

What does this mean for our economy? It’s time to embrace the new breadwinners — women — and drop out-of-date gender norms about who should do what jobs for the family.

As I’ve argued before, increasing educational attainment combined with tough financial times will accelerate the social acceptance of women as equal breadwinners and men as capable parents and homemakers. We’ll see the most flexibility and equality among educated and younger Americans.

It’s great that 58% of advanced degree recipients are women. But if women are still expected to do the majority of the housework and childcare (as they currently do) in addition to earning as much or more than their husbands, we won’t have equality: We’ll have overworked women, coddled men – and a lot of unhappy relationships.

The Author : Christine B. Whelan
Dr. Christine B. Whelan is an author, professor and speaker. She and her husband, Peter, and their dictator cats, Chairman Meow and Evita Purron, live in Pittsburgh. Her book "Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women" is available in stores or at the Halo Store.
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  • Tanya

    You conclusion rings especially true for me and many other highly educated women I know.

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