An examination of equity in education requires considering the benefits that males and females receive at the end of schooling. Higher levels of educational attainment are associated with certain labor market outcomes, such as higher labor force participation rates, higher rates of employment, and higher earnings. Labor market outcomes are not the only important outcomes of participation in formal education, but they are the most readily measured with available national and international data.
The gap between male and female employment rates has narrowed since the 1970s. Both the decline in employment rates of males who did not attend college and the increase in the employment rate of females across all education levels contributed to the overall narrowing of the gap. In 2002, the gender gaps in employment rates were smaller among people with higher levels of education compared to those with a high school diploma or less. However, males continued to have higher employment rates across all levels of education (indicator 35).
Among young people ages 25-34, the median annual earnings for full-time, year-round workers are lower for females than for their male counterparts with the same level of educational attainment. However, over the last 30 years, women have begun to narrow the earnings gap with men. In 1970, young women with a bachelor's degree had a median annual salary that was equivalent to 71 percent of what their male peers earned; in 2000, it was 78 percent (indicator 36). The male-female difference in annual earnings for full-time, year-round workers may be attributable at least in part to different occupations and job tenure.
In 2001, females ages 25-64 had lower labor force participation rates than males at all levels of education in the United States. This difference was also evident in other selected large, industrialized countries, such as Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom (indicator 37). However, the percentage of females participating in the labor force increased in all six countries between 1995 and 2001, while the percentage of males stayed the same or decreased. Female labor force participation rates also generally increased with educational attainment.
Women not only have made important progress in terms of their formal educational attainment, but also have been actively involved in adult education activities. In 2001, the overall participation rate of females in adult education activities was higher than that of their male peers (53 percent vs. 46 percent; indicator 32). However, when examined by type of activity, the only significant gender difference was in participation in personal development activities. The percentages of males and females who participated in basic skills and work-related adult education were similar.