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The cost of gaps in education

In American schools, boys are underachieving and girls are excelling. This gender gap in academic achievement is evident as early as kindergarten.

The longer students are in school, the wider the gap becomes.

Boys are more likely than girls to earn poor grades, be held back a grade, have a learning disability, form a negative attitude toward school, get suspended or expelled, and drop out of school.

The education gender gap is affecting colleges, the work force, the marriage rate and the fatherlessness rate in America.

Women outnumber men in college by 4 to 3. Four decades ago, men outnumbered women in college by 4 to 3. The tipping point occurred in the late 1970s.

Not only are men less likely than women to go to college, they’re also less likely to graduate once there.

Among 25- to 29-year-olds, 33 percent of women have earned at least a bachelor’s degree compared with just 23 percent of men. This is the first generation of women to be more educated than their male counterparts.

This shift means that women will increasingly get the highly paid jobs while men will experience a drop in earnings. This is already happening. Men in their 30s are the first generation to earn significantly less income than their fathers’ generation did at the same age.

As jobs that require little education increasingly shrink, more and more men will become unemployed. In the current economy, unemployment is higher and rising faster for men than for women.

As the ratio of college-educated women to college-educated men continues to grow, increasingly fewer college-educated women are able to find college-educated men to marry.

Many of these women are choosing not to marry at all rather than marry non-college-educated men who are likely to earn significantly less than they do.

Thirty years ago, wives earned more than their husbands in 16 percent of marriages. Now it’s 25 percent and continuing to rise. By 2050, nearly half of the married women will earn more than their husbands.

Fewer and fewer Americans are getting married. For better or for worse, the future is not bright for the institution of marriage.

The rise in the number of single American women has given birth to another trend: the rise in single motherhood. The nonmarital birth rate rose sharply from 18 percent in 1980 to 39 percent in 2006. According the National Center for Health Statistics, this trend is not being fueled by teenage mothers but rather by women in their 30s and 40s.

The National Center for Fathering found that 72 percent of Americans think that fatherlessness is the most significant social problem facing our nation. America is the world’s leader in fatherless families.

In sum, the education gender gap that starts in kindergarten is leading to a nation of undereducated men who are contributing less and less to the economy and the family structure. This will adversely impact our nation’s productivity, prosperity and society.

It’s in the interest of all to turn this situation around. It’s already too late to make up for the generations of boys whose educational attainment did not live up to its potential. However, it’s not too late to help the current generation of boys.

They deserve better. So do their mothers and future wives.


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