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Trends in Educational Equity of Girls and Women: 2004 - Executive Summary

Executive Summary

This report draws upon a wide range of published and unpublished statistical materials to present an overview of the educational status of girls and women in the United States. Trends in Educational Equity for Girls & Women contains a selection of indicators that illustrate the educational gains made by females in recent years as well as areas where gaps continue to exist. This statistical report assembles a series of indicators that examine the extent to which males and females have access to the same educational opportunities, avail themselves equally of these opportunities, perform at similar levels throughout schooling, succeed at similar rates, and reap the same benefits from their educational experiences.

This report serves as an update of an earlier publication, Trends in Educational Equity of Girls & Women (NCES 2000-030). General topics covered by this report are similar to those addressed in the 2000 report. Many indicators that were included in the 2000 report have been updated with the most recent data available. In addition, a number of new indicators have been added, designed to reflect the most current research on topics relevant to educational equity.

The report begins with an overview that summarizes the report's major findings. A series of 38 indicators follow, which examine various facets of educational equity. The indicators begin with preprimary and early elementary education, move through elementary and secondary education and postsecondary education, and finally, consider educational outcomes. Each indicator shows the status of females relative to males. Some indicators include further breakdowns, such as those by race/ethnicity; however, the general focus of this report is on overall comparisons between males and females and not on the experiences of various subgroups, which may show different patterns. The data for the indicators are drawn primarily from surveys conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), although several other sources of national and international data are used as well. Although these indicators provide valuable information on many aspects of educational equity, some important topics cannot be addressed with available, nationally representative data. Examples of such topics include the extent to which sexual harassment undermines the ability of schools to provide a safe and comfortable learning environment and whether girls and young women are encouraged to challenge themselves in their educational pursuits, especially in mathematics and science.

The data presented in this publication demonstrate that in elementary and secondary school and in college, females are now doing as well as or better than males on many indicators of achievement and educational attainment, and that large gaps that once existed between males and females have been eliminated in most cases and have significantly decreased in other cases. Women are still underrepresented in some fields of study, as well as more generally in doctoral and first-professional degree programs, although they have made substantial gains in the past 30 years. These differences may have labor market consequences.

  Executive Summary
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