22 SES 12 D, Student diversity
In recent decades, there is clear evidence in many education systems that the traditional overrepresentation of males over females in the system is being reversed. Now there is the opposite pattern (DiPrete & Buchmann, 2013; Schofer & Meyer, 2005). This is then called the “the reversal of gender inequalities” (Vincent-Lancrin, 2008) or “reversed gender gap” in educational participation (De Hauw, Grow, & Van Bavel, 2017, see Fig. 1) or the “new gender gap” (Schofer & Meyer, 2005, p. 909). Here we suggest a new perspective from which to explore the relationship between male and female participation.
We do not contest that there has been a reversal using this indicator of participation. But here an analytic tool is proposed, which draws quite a different picture from the one that is normally painted and which gives a very different and arguably a more fruitful perspective. The paper presented introduces the perspective of growth or change in participation in education, which provides a completely different understanding of what is happening, and thus how the “reversal” or “new gap” might be interpreted. The current presentation also describes in a novel way what developments have taken place, and in particular for how long, and what further developments are most likely to take place in the coming decades.
Thus it is argued that instead of focussing on absolute levels of participation in education (e.g. enrolment, or graduation), looking at growth and more specifically at changes in enrolment or growth, gives a completely new view of the gender enrolment and the visible disparities. It thus gives a new interpretation of the gender gap.
The background to this account has two sides. One is a credential account of the growth of participation in education which essentially sees education credentials growing as consumer goods with the students as the main actors in this growth. The credential account has been developed, early by Collins (1979, 2002) and later by Brown (1995, 2001), Labaree (1997) and Baker (2014). The other side or feature of this view is the argument that the growth of enrolment is appropriately described as exponential growth. Here it is done by showing that growth over 45 years can usefully be described by one exponential curve but more importantly that there is a gender difference in the growth, showing both difference in absolute rates and a gap that is very stable over very long periods and does not change even though parity in enrolment (or graduation), is reached. From this perspective, there is no reversal, and thus nothing new, in the gender gap (even when parity is reached) and it is argued that the gap will essentially not change until saturation (ceiling) in the enrolment by females is reached.
Data presented here is extracted from the UNESCO educational database (UIS) which presents data for individual countries from 1970-2017 on gender and enrolment for the period 1970-2017, thus giving a comparative longitudinal picture for more than 45 years. In the paper, the gross enrolment ratio for tertiary education is used. This gives the total enrolment at the tertiary level, but corrects (partly) for change in the size of the population. The selection of this measure as compared to the net enrolment ratio or other indicators is discussed.
In the paper being developed a more elaborated and refined version will be presented than the basic argument shown here and data extracted from more sources.
Even though the UIS database ostensibly covers, the period 1971-2017 in the majority of country cases there are a number of missing cells, which will be taken into account in the analysis. In this paper the thrust of argument is based on individual country data but the argument is made visible, for simplification and clarification, by using aggregated regional data (despite noteworthy problems), see Fig 1. Figure 1. Examples from regional data showing growth for males and females for four regions using gross enrolment ratios. An exponential curve is fitted to all the data sets also showing the exponent. Note that for growth rates below 20% an exponent approximates percentage growth; e.g. the exponent 0.03 indicates approx. 3% growth. In order to underpin the argument we first show examples of growth for four different regions as shown in Fig. 1 (but most of the data will be presented in tables). Several important impressions can be gleaned from the figure, related to the cross-over, and the relationship between GRE levels and growth rates. Table 1. Calculations of growth coefficients from individual country data. The calculations take into account the amount of missing data points. The most important row is the one showing the average ratio of female and male exponential coefficients (growth coefficients), also with the standard deviation, and the highest and the lowest values. The fourth column shows the ratio of females and males for the last 24 years and the very last column show the difference between the slopes for the second period minus the first. Table 1 presents the key evidence, which is based on individual countries. In order to derive the exponential growth coefficients the slope of the ln transformation is used, a) for the whole period 1970-2018 and b) for the two halves, i.e., 1970-1994 and 1994-2018 in order to compare the coefficients for these periods. Because of missing data in the database used here we present data were most of the data is available (10 or less data points missing) and there we have data for 34 countries. The average female/male ratio is 1.87 with a standard deviation of only 1.39 and in no country does the ratio go below 1. Similar data is presented where the missing points are allowed to go up to 20 and even 30, but here the data is getting very meagre for some of the countries.
By adopting the growth perspective on educational enrolment, in particular adopting the view that the expansion being fruitfully described as exponential growth a new view on the nature of the gender gap in educational participation emerges. A gap in growth rates that is quite stable over long periods and develops similarly in very different cultures. We therefore suggest that the notion of a gender gap reversal or a new gender gap in participation in education, while technically sustainable, should be put aside in favour of completely different description of the data. Thus, there is indeed a gender gap in the growth of educational participation showing up even in aggregated data involving groups of countries, such as the different continents. The gap in the growth rate, suggested here can be regarded as stable for the whole period and given the underlying proposed mechanism will not change until a saturation or a ceiling is reached in the female enrolment numbers. The implications are quite substantial. This interpretation of the data calls for a view of the growth of education, much in line with the credential literature. This in turn supports a view that much of the expansion seen worldwide is largely driven by students. This perspective makes the point of intersection for males and females rather uninteresting as nothing is happening there; the point of parity is of no consequence, neither empirically nor theoretically. The explanation of this long-term gender difference calls for a renewed discussion of how the two genders view education and this relates to both cultural and class differences, also bringing in cohorts effects. There is considerable data available and accessible in particular at various national statistical agencies, which also forms a backbone to this discussion and certainly underpins it, but is not given room in this paper.
Baker, D. P. (2014). The schooled society : the educational transformation of global culture. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. Brown, D. K. (1995). Degrees of Control. A Sociology of Educational Expansion and Occupational Credentialism. New York: Teachers College Press. Brown, D. K. (2001). The Social Sources of Educational Credentialism: Status Cultures, Labor Markets, and Organisations. Sociology of Education( Extra Issue), 19-34. Collins, R. (1979). The Credential Society: An historical sociology of education and stratification. New York: Academic Press. Collins, R. (2002). Credential inflation and the future of universities. In S. G. Brint (Ed.), The future of the city of intellect : the changing American university (pp. 23-46). Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press. De Hauw, Y., Grow, A., & Van Bavel, J. (2017). The Reversed Gender Gap in Education and Assortative Mating in Europe. European Journal of Population, 33(4), 445-474. doi:10.1007/s10680-016-9407-z DiPrete, T. A., & Buchmann, C. (2013). The rise of women : the growing gender gap in education and what it means for American schools. New York: Russell Sage Foundation. Labaree, D. F. (1997). How to succeed in school without really learning: the credentials race in American education. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press. Schofer, E., & Meyer, J. W. (2005). The Worldwide Expansion of Higher Education in the Twentieth Century. American Sociological Review, 70, 898-920. Vincent-Lancrin, S. (2008). The Reversal of Gender Inequalities in Higher Education: An On-going Trend. In Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (Ed.), Higher education to 2030 (Vol. I: Demography, pp. 265-298). Paris: Centre for Educational Research and Innovation, OECD.
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