Males and Undergraduate Education: The Rest of the Story

In the last 50 years, female undergraduate enrollment has increased substantially while enrollment of male students has stayed roughly the same. Females now make up around 60 percent of undergraduates, while men only make up 40 percent. Why?

Joshua Noennig, a junior majoring in Economics, wanted to find the answer. In his study, Noennig looks at the gender enrollment gap in U.S. undergraduate enrollment in four-year institutions from 1962 to the present.

“This study looks at how cost and benefits influence male enrollment, and highlights specifically how post-high school graduation alternatives for males attending college impact their decision,” said Noennig.

To conduct his study, Noennig used data from the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau to see how the costs and benefits influence men who are recent high school graduates. He focused on a few key variables, which include college premium (the difference between the salary of someone with a college degree and a high school degree), average marriage age, and a military draft variable. He is also looking at the affect male-dominated trade professions may have on low male enrollment.

Through his extensive research, Noennig hoped to explain why men have not seen increased undergraduate enrollment during a time when women’s undergraduate enrollment has skyrocketed, and he may have found an answer.

“I found that men have been joining the workforce or military due to the benefits (such as money and freedom) being immediate, compared to the long-term benefits of college,” said Noennig. “It appears that the perceived benefits of attending college for men are decreasing, or that they do not want to invest in education for four years before seeing the payoff down the road.”