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Men Are More Likely to Drop Out of College Than Women, Because They Can Afford It

Illustration for article titled Men Are More Likely to Drop Out of College Than Women, Because They Can Afford It

Why do so many more men than women drop out of college? According to a new study, it's not because of video game addiction or other commonly-decried symptoms of male slackerdom. Rather, according to a new study in the journal Gender and Society, men are much less willing to take on significant debt to finance their education.

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As the study's authors report, this male reluctance to borrow isn't based on a greater fiscal caution among young men. It's rooted in the persistent wage gap that means that a college education is, at least in the short run, less essential to men's financial success. "Men who drop out face no financial penalty in their entry-level salaries. Women, on the other hand, are financially penalized for dropping out right away, earning an average of $6,500 less in their starting salaries than women college grads," the study notes. Staying in college, even with spiraling debt loads, makes more immediate financial sense for women.

The problem for men is that the decision to drop out and work rather than take on debt only makes sense in the short run. In the long time, they'll be penalized heftily. Authors Rachel Dwyer, Randy Hodson and Laura McCloud point out that this "initial gender advantage for men imposes considerable long-term costs in their lifetime earnings: by midlife, college-graduate men's salaries are on average $20,000 higher than those who did not complete college."

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The end result is that it is women, rather than men, who have the more realistic long-term view of the relationship between debt and earnings. As the study makes clear, it's not that women are more inherently comfortable with a heavy debt burden — it's that women are more likely to see borrowing for education as a worthwhile long-term investment. As Gender and Society editor Joya Misra puts it, "Women's recent advantage in college graduation rates is associated with their relative disadvantage in the job market. At the same time, men's seeming advantages in the short run can lure them away from a surer path — college completion — to longer term economic security."

Precisely because young men still benefit from an enduring wage gap, they are apparently more likely to deceive themselves into imagining that a college education may not be worth the price. Time to think long term, guys, and borrow more.

Why Don't Men Finish College As Often as Women (PDF) [Gender and Society]


Jezebel columnist Hugo Schwyzer teaches history and gender studies at Pasadena City College and is a nationally-known speaker on sex, masculinity, body image and beauty culture. He also blogs at his eponymous site. Follow him on Twitter: @hugoschwyzer.

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Image by hxdbzxy/Shutterstock.

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DISCUSSION

Bluestar2k9
Bluestar2k9

How is racking up well over 100k$ in debt helping secure our financial future?

Imo you can't just look at what your salary will be by the time your 50 if you complete college because a good chunk of that will go to paying off your loans. Which last I heard can be absurd with interest rates.

Degrees may open more doors but you close some doors with the debt burden you'll have. And they come after you like bloody vultures, and they don't let up. My mother in law racked up well over 200k$ in debt for student loans to earn her masters, and they want almost 900$ a month.

Assuming you make say, 40k/yr, a good 1/3rd of your check will go to paying them off, which leaves you much less for living in the mean time. Tack on a house, car or other some such loan so you live better or more comfortably, and your really screwed. And your partner may have their own debt too, which won't help the problem any.

I don't want to believe a degree is bad by any sense, but it certainly has it's major drawbacks to living a comfortable life. I'd rather get a job, and work up that ladder, then worry about going to get a higher degree when i have the ability to better manage the cost.