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PEDAR: Executive Summary  Gender Differences in Participation and Completion of Undergraduate Education and How They Have Changed Over Time
Trends in Postsecondary Enrollment and Degree Awards
Changes in Undergraduate Student Profiles and Enrollment Characteristics
Preparation, Persistence, and Progress Through Undergraduate Education
High School Academic Preparation and Subsequent Attainment
Postsecondary Persistence and Degree Completion
Early Labor Market Outcomes Among Bachelor's Degree Recipients
Research Methodology
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Executive Summary (PDF)

Between 1970 and 2001, women went from being the minority to the majority of the U.S. undergraduate population, increasing their representation from 42 percent to 56 percent of undergraduates (Freeman 2004). Projections to 2013 indicate that women’s undergraduate enrollment will increase to 8.9 million or 57 percent of the undergraduate population (Gerald and Hussar 2003, table 19). Consistent with these enrollment changes, women surpassed their male peers in educational expectations and degree attainment over the last 30 years (Freeman 2004). While in the aggregate, women have made great progress in gaining access to and completing postsecondary education, gender differences are not uniform across all groups (King 2000; Horn, Peter, and Rooney 2002). For example, among all undergraduates enrolled in 1999–2000, women made up 63 percent of Black undergraduates, 62 percent of students age 40 or older, and 70 percent of single parents (Horn, Peter, and Rooney 2002, table 3.1). The purpose of this study is to draw on several publications and postsecondary datasets to provide a detailed account of gender differences in undergraduate education. Specifically, the analysis examines gender differences in rates of participation and completion of undergraduate education, focusing on changes over time in college enrollment, associate’s and bachelor’s degree awards, and the demographic and enrollment characteristics of undergraduate men and women. The analysis also examines trends in high school academic preparation, postsecondary persistence and degree completion, and early labor market outcomes among bachelor’s degree recipients.

The findings are based on data from the following studies:

This analysis examines differences according to gender and changes over time using standard t-tests to determine statistical significance. Statistical significance is reported at p < 0.05.

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