One of the key talking points in the MGTOW and in the manosphere more broadly is the growing gap in university enrollment between women and men. Over the last forty years, women have surged past men to become a growing majority on college campuses across the Western world. This is used as evidence that men are “falling behind” in today’s society. You can find commentary from across the men’s movement talking about everything from the loss of male teachers to the feminization of the curriculum as the causes of this growing problem. However, I’m not a fan of echo chambers so I’m going to argue that this isn’t evidence of the decline of men. Rather, the problem here can be explained by the reactions of the free market to the public’s and government’s misunderstanding of the role universities play in our society.
Let’s start with a basic question. Why does our society believe that going to university is a good decision? In fact, why is this idea so pervasive that people in the United States are willing to go into huge amounts of debt just to get a bachelor’s degree? The basic idea is that people who get a university degree will earn more in their lifetimes than those who don’t. The number cited is usually around $1,000,000.00. Setting aside a time value of money argument about tuition (which the Federal Reserve study below takes into account), that seems like a pretty good reason to go to university. This is something that almost everyone has internalized. In the US, enrolment has ballooned from around 2-3 million students in the 1950’s to over 20 million students today. That’s an increase of almost ten-fold while the population of the US has only doubled. However, as the jokes about English major baristas demonstrate, none of this is driven by an increasing demand for workers with the skills learned in a liberal arts degree. So, what the heck? If employers don’t need film majors, why is there such a bonus for people who went to university?
I submit that, as is too often the case, we’re looking at the data precisely backwards. Universities, I contend, don’t necessarily provide skills but they do an excellent job of filtering out the wheat from the chaff. Put another way, universities aren’t creating winners, they’re picking them and stamping them with their seal of approval. History tells us how this happened. Universities began as elitist institutions. If you go back 200 or 300 years, universities were not seen as training grounds for the job market but rather places where elite young men went to get refinement. Learning Latin and ancient philosophy was never intended to get them a job. Soon, people of lower classes began to view university as a pathway to the elite. Schools expanded and new schools were created. Is it any wonder that the people of the relative backwater of Mississippi named the site of their future university, Oxford? This view of university as a pathway to the elite has morphed into this idea that universities somehow grant their graduates more success in life. But why, in an era of unprecedented university access (i.e. they aren’t all that elite anymore) does this still seem to hold?
As our focus here is why there’s an emerging gender gap, how universities select their students is important. There are some basic, universal things that universities look for: grades, high standardized test scores and extra-curricular activities. While academics are by no means a perfect measure of success, there are strong correlations between academic success and things like intelligence and discipline. It’s the intelligence and discipline which will translate well in most work environments. By attracting the most intelligent and most disciplined students in high school, the universities guarantee themselves, without having to teach them anything, that they will be more successful than the students who don’t get in.
The relatively new focus on things like extra-curricular activities shows us that the universities understand their role better than they let on. Extra-curricular activities are a poor gauge of how well someone is going to do in a university course; your talent on the field aren’t going to help you much on that organic chemistry final. However, they are an excellent measure of the sort of soft, inter-personal skills which can help immensely in the job market. Universities are looking for their graduates to become successful so that a) they can bolster the reputation of the university and b) they can afford and want to donate as alumni. Those extra-curricular activities are a predictor of the university’s return on investment.
There’s nothing about the universities’ selection criteria that should particularly privilege women. Indeed, the hardest programs to get into are often either 50/50 or dominated by men. Even when taught by female teachers and even when taught under feminist curricula, lots of men succeed. The metrics used by universities are in and of themselves fair and shouldn’t in and of themselves produce the gender gap. Rather, I contend the gap is caused by how universities have chosen to expand.
We understand in the manosphere that the gap in STEM that feminists love to harp on is far more likely caused by personal choices of women than institutional sexism. Why then, do we contend that the gap in the rest of university is caused by institutional sexism? Isn’t personal choice a better explanation? There’s an excellent table from the National Center for Education Statistics linked below that shows the number of degrees conferred by area of study. As you scroll through, you’ll notice the relatively small number of degrees conferred in STEM fields compared to business and arts degrees. Why are universities doing this? Is it gender bias that’s causing the universities to confer these degrees? Is it cultural Marxism? Probably not. I think the better explanation is economic.
Quite simply, it’s more profitable for the university to run an arts course than a STEM course. While they might charge a slight premium for the STEM course, the arts course is incredibly low cost. All that’s required is a low-paid adjunct professor, maybe of couple of grad students for bigger classes and a room with some projection equipment. That’s it. You don’t need the latest in high-tech equipment. You don’t need to run labs with expensive and often single use materials. You can also run massive lectures where margins are even better. By adding more and more arts and business degrees, universities can respond to market demand for more spaces without having to spend very much additional capital. Since we understand that men are less likely to be interested in some of these arts degrees, it shouldn’t surprise us that as the proportion of these courses has increased, the overall ratio between men and women has begun to slant in favour of women.
There have also been relatively dramatic shifts in the enrollment patterns in certain programs. Programs like law and medicine which used to be dominated by men are now much more even while programs that used to be relatively even like psychology are now female dominated. We should view these changes as a natural process as people have more choice in their lives as we do when we look at the greater male dominance in STEM fields in first world countries compared to third world countries. Increasingly, the jobs that men are choosing to occupy in the labour force do not require a university degree. Economists worry that economic bubbles which provide highly-paid, low wage jobs may seduce young men into foregoing university only to have their economic prospects collapse when the bubble bursts. It should be easy for MGTOW to understand the lure to young men of earning lots of money in their late teens or early twenties when they are most actively trying to attract a mate. While this can be disastrous in boom/bust economies, in a more stable economy this might just be a good mating strategy.
So yes, my friends, the gender gap in university is growing but it might not be the end of the world.