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Indicator 17. Graduation Rates by Sex

Among G-8 countries reporting data, upper secondary graduation rates were lowest in Canada and the United States and highest in Germany and Japan in 2008. In all G-8 countries reporting data except Japan, graduation rates in academic higher education below the doctoral level were higher for females than for males.

This indicator presents first-time graduation rates in 2008 at two levels of education—upper secondary and academic higher education below the doctoral level—and compares graduation rates for males and females.

Upper secondary graduation rates among G-8 countries reporting data in 2008 were lowest in Canada and the United States (76 percent) and highest in Germany and Japan (97 and 95 percent, respectively) (figure 17-1).19 Canada had the largest male-female difference in upper secondary graduation rates, with 72 percent of male and 81 percent of female first-time graduates at this level of education. In the United States, the male-female difference was 7 percentage points in favor of females. Similarly, upper secondary graduation rates were higher for females than for males in the United Kingdom (a difference of 6 percentage points) and Italy (a difference of 4 percentage points). In Germany and Japan, the male-female difference in upper secondary graduation rates was 1 percentage point or less in 2008.

The graduation rate in academic higher education below the doctoral level among G-8 countries reporting data in 2008 was highest in Japan (39 percent), followed by the United States (37 percent); the lowest graduation rate was in Germany (25 percent) (figure 17-2). The graduation rate in academic higher education below the doctoral level includes first-time graduates in programs that are intended to provide sufficient qualifications to gain entry into advanced research programs and professions with high skill requirements; in the United States, this includes bachelor's, master's, and first professional degree programs. In every G-8 country reporting data, the gap in male-female graduation rates was larger in academic higher education below the doctoral level than at the upper secondary level, and in almost all of these countries, graduation rates in academic higher education below the doctoral level were higher for females than males. Canada had the largest male-female difference, with 25 percent of male and 44 percent of female first-time graduates. Germany had the smallest male-female difference, with 24 percent of male and 27 percent of female first-time graduates. In the United States, the difference favoring females was 13 percentage points (31 percent for males vs. 44 percent for females). Japan was the only G-8 country reporting data in which the graduation rate in academic higher education below the doctoral level was higher for males than females (44 vs. 35 percent).

Definitions and Methodology

Graduation rates are calculated either as net rates or gross rates. The net graduation rate is calculated by dividing the number of graduates at each single year of age by the population at that age, and summing these over all the ages. The gross graduation rate is calculated by dividing the total number of graduates by the population at the typical age of graduation. At the upper secondary level, graduation rates in Canada, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom are calculated from gross rates (with the graduation rates in Italy and the United States calculated from net rates). Typical graduation ages in these countries at this level of education vary depending on the specific program type and duration, with the age range as follows: Canada, 17–18; Germany, 19–20; Japan, 15–17; and the United Kingdom, 16–18. At the level of academic higher education below the doctoral level, graduation rates in Canada, Japan, and the United States are calculated from gross rates (with the graduation rates in Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom calculated from net rates). Typical graduation ages in these countries at this level of education vary depending on the specific program type and duration, with the age range as follows: Canada, 22–25; Japan, 21–24; and the United States, 21–24.

Mismatches between the coverage of the population data and the graduation data mean that the graduation rates for those countries that are net exporters of students may be underestimated and those that are net importers may be overestimated.

As shown in the figures, education levels are defined according to the 1997 International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED97). For more information on the ISCED97 levels, see appendix A.

Male-female percentage-point differences in graduation rates presented in the text were computed from unrounded numbers; therefore, they may differ from computations made using the rounded whole numbers that appear in the figures.


19 Reported graduation rates can include students who are older than the traditional ages of enrollment for that level of educational attainment (e.g., a 22-year-old earning an upper secondary degree). Moreover, in some countries, such as Germany, the reported graduation rate at the upper secondary level includes multiple certificates earned by students, so some students are counted more than once. This increases the graduation rate beyond what it would be if computed based solely on individual attainment data.

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