January 5, 2006

Readers on College

Readers on College: Readers respond to my posting on whether the 58%-42% imbalance in favor of girls over boys in college is caused by too few boys or too many girls in higher education:

My impression is that so-called pink-collar jobs (secretary, physician's assistant, even cosmetologist) frequently require at least some college, because someone who has not gone to any college these days is presumed to be functionally illiterate, while many blue-collar jobs (garbage collector, construction worker, fry cook) do not.

As for males achieving their potential: I admit to being a real elitist on this question. It doesn't matter much for civilization what most people do; what matters is what the elite do. (I seem to recall you citing a paper by Le Griffe du Lion attempting to prove something similar using statistical info on IQ distributions, something about "smart fractions" rather than average IQ being the key predictor of national GDP.) Our cognitive elites are very achievement-oriented. However, at least judging from the quality of the arts and the preferred career choices of said elites (myself unfortunately included) it seems like today's elites are more status-conscious and security-conscious, and less willing to bet it all for honor or glory, than was probably true in the West's heyday. This is almost certainly due in part to the increasing stratification of society by SAT score, which teaches youngsters that the most important thing is to jump through hoops set up by adults. The Chinese organized their civilization around test-taking over 2000 years ago, and as our civilization has begun to do the same we are getting more Chinese: more conformist and status-conscious, less Romantic and honor-conscious.


(1) Universities are no longer “marriage markets.” I believe (but don’t have the stats to support it) that few persons are marrying in their college years, and that after graduating, few persons will maintain contact with their college friends. Most college educated persons are probably marrying in their mid to late 20s, well after graduation.

In some ways, parents see college as an anti-marriage market that will keep their daughters from making an immature choice of man too young. Professional and grad schools are then seen as the real marriage markets.

This all ties into the popularity among upscale parents of pushing their daughters into team sports, even though some must at least suspect that team sports encourage lesbianism in girls. But, then, they must reason, if our daughter is a Lesbian Until Graduation, at least she's not getting pregnant and marrying some doofus. (Of course, maybe she won't stop being a lesbian until well after graduation? And will hanging around with men-hating lesbian-feminists during her formative years make her a more attractive wife later on? Difficult questions, but not ones you'll see addressed in the media.)

A reader responds:

*Girl athletes and lesbianism: I think this is a red herring. From my experience with the East Coast meritocratic elite, the girl athletes are dating guy athletes, and lesbianism has nothing to do with elite parents' calculations: they (A) want their daughter to get into a good college so she can have a good career and meet a successful man, and (B) do NOT want their daughters to become lesbians. Yes these people are less anti-lesbian than the rest of America but it is still a stigmatized group. You've done quite a bit of work on liberal hypocrisy. This is another instance of it. Ever notice how the female athletes go into less brawny sports like lacrosse, soccer, volleyball rather than bone-crunching sports like football? The REAL risk of 'switching teams' comes with the politically-active intellectual-types. The main effect, I think, is to annoy male nerds by politicizing nerdy women: instead of a nice quiet librarian type with five cats who likes literature like fifty years ago, you have an activist who sees oppression in the design of a coffee cup. But maybe these are different personality types anyway and you are just hearing me complain. ;) One of these days you ought to look into the connection between nerdy women (we're broadening the definition of nerd past sciences here, if you have the same complement of genes that gives you a nerd but in a girl, you must have something) and feminism.


I think the best explanation here is pure economics, in two parts:

a. Men have better earning prospects right out of high school than women do.

b. Women benefit a lot more than men from marrying up the socioeconomic ladder.

And you can add to that the big male variation in rates of violence. College graduates are a lot less likely to beat their wives. Also, the divorce rate has recently dropped significantly among the college educated, although some of that is due to the older ages of first marriage among the well-educated -- by the time the seven year itch strikes, they're too wrinkly to do much about it, so they are more likely to stay married.


The sort of jobs that middle class women tend to want require a B.A., whereas men have lots of careers which don't require college. The smarter guys (and some gals too) will want a B.S., so, they'll go. So I'm not including them. I think the difference comes in the marginal, average-intelligence kids; those who (in my day) were C+ students. These, if women, will aspire to staff positions in the welfare state. Government jobs if possible, or else similar jobs with very large companies. Jobs with security, which women are programmed to want. The C+ men will be thinking about the military, or going into blue-collar service trades, like plumbing. Trade school work. Practical and useful things.

If I am right about this, you should see a lot more females getting B.A.s (which don't prepare you for anything in particular, but are credential enough for all big companies), and a lot more males getting B.S.s (which actually require brains and work, at least at many schools).

Anybody know the numbers on gender gaps in BAs and BSs?

UPDATED: A sociologist writes:

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, females graduate with less than 50 percent of degrees in only five areas: agricultural and natural resources (45%), computer information sciences (28%), math (48%), engineering (20%--damn those sexist math and engineering departments!), and physical sciences (41%). Business management is evenly split. There is no doubt that females gravitate toward BA degrees.


I read somewhere that the U.S. spent roughly 10% of it's GDP on "education" in 2005. Your article brings to mind two questions: 1) how many resources does this country waste by sending too many women to higher ed and 2) how are these wasted resources compounded by what happens to the male that doesn't get into school.

Case in point: law school. There are roughly 200 accredited law schools in the U.S. Most law schools admit about 275-300 students a year. This doesn't change much. 55% of the grads are women. I can't tell you how many times in law school I quietly heard women say "God....I can't imagine doing this much longer than 5 years after I get out." Uh-huh. Exactly.

If higher education is pursued in sizable part as the pursuit of valuable markers in the marriage market, then it has aspects of being a wasteful arms race. Wouldn't there be some cheaper way for young people to certify themselves as good marriage material without dithering years and small fortunes away?


There is another effect that the heavy feminization of colleges would have but doesn't seem to be mentioned yet. It should be obvious to anyone who has read "I am Charlotte Simmons".

When women are a minority, their basic sociobiological strategy of requiring commitment for sex works very well. The men have to compete for women in women's terms. And even if some women would desire casual sex, short-term relationships and one-night stands, they know that if they appear to be looking and available, they will immediately get dozens of hopeful men hitting on them. Even if they were secure in their physical safety, it is still emotionally draining to constantly see those looks on all those men's faces and keep turning down losers and low-status men. As a result, to an outside observer, the women who are a minority would appear to have almost no sex drive at all, and conservatives and traditionalists are happy how virtuously everyone behaves: women by choice, men by necessity.

However, when women become a significant majority, the same strategy no longer works at all. For some mysterious reason, men don't seem very interested in commitment, because there is now more casual sex available to them, since women are the constraining factor on how much casual sex takes place. When they are a majority, women find themselves in an unnatural situation in which they have to compete with other women for the commitment of good males. And there are not too many ways that this competition can take place: it is a race to the bottom on who puts out the easiest. The other forms of this competition are also necessarily about being pleasant to men.

For this reason, I would bet that you won't find much support for equalizing the sex ratio among the men who are currently in college. They are quite happy about the current situation, especially if they are at least little athletic in addition to being brainy. Besides, most college men are quite happy to sacrifice their blue-collar bound brothers since they don't remember them too fondly from the high school.

Last, even though women are a majority, it's not as big a problem as it sounds since they tend to populate the fluffier fields whereas men tend to major in the reality-based fields. These men don't have to suffer from feminism and other leftism nearly as much as you would expect from the overall numbers, since feminists are actually pretty rare in reality-based fields that have objective standards. (Since feminism is essentially an extreme form of social constructionism, its mindset is incompatible with the mindset needed in, say, the hard sciences.)

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

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