Women who graduated from highly selective colleges more likely to drop out of workforce

by Grace

Which women are more likely to drop out of the workforce?

… women who attended highly selective schools are more likely to opt out of the workforce than are their counterparts from less selective schools.

A university professor who was “absolutely infuriated” to see so many highly educated women leave the workforce decided to study this topic.

Joni Hersch, a law and economics professor at Vanderbilt University, analyzed data from the 2003 National Survey of College Graduates and crossed the information with the Carnegie Foundation’s classifications of schools and selectivity measures from Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges. She found that women who attended highly selective schools are more likely to opt out of the workforce than are their counterparts from less selective schools.

Why?  For one thing, these women tend to marry high-achieving men.

Such a divide might have its seeds in the college admissions office. …  students who attend the most selective schools tend to come from wealthier backgrounds than those who opt for less selective schools. They don’t take out as many student loans. They have a better shot at getting accepted to an elite graduate school. And they will be surrounded by (and therefore more likely to marry) men with similarly successful backgrounds and strong earnings potential, making their financial contribution less critical. (Maybe this is what Susan Patton was trying to say?) 

Such women can actually afford to step back from the workforce, a luxury that women without spousal safety nets or hefty bank accounts just don’t have, Hersch says.

This helps explain the low numbers of women in higher management positions.

There are major consequences to this opt-out trend among graduates from selective programs, Hersch says: Elite companies hire from elite schools, but women from elite schools don’t stick around for long, limiting the talent pipeline for leadership positions.

Doctors and teachers are more likely to continue working, perhaps because they can often avoid the long hours required in other professions that women choose.

A lot depends on the kind of degree that a married woman with children has obtained. If she is a physician, has a PhD, or has an MA in education (i.e., is probably a K-12 teacher), she is as likely to be employed as graduates from lower-tier schools. But those degrees involve only 24% of mothers who graduated from tier 1 schools. Those with law degrees are 9 percentage points less likely to be employed than graduates from lower-tier schools; those with MBAs are 16 percentage points less likely to be employed, and the largest single group, those with just a BA, are 13 percentage points less likely to be employed.

Charles Murray points out how these women may be helping to sharpen the edges of our nation’s class divisions.

So Professor Hersch has established that the next generation of children who have everything from genes to family structure to money going for them are also more likely to have a stay-at-home mom — and not just any mom, but one who has been sifted through the micron-fine mesh of the admissions process at elite schools and been judged to have both the IQ and other sterling qualities that gained her entrance, and who is devoting that package of exceptional abilities to the upbringing of her children. Lucky kids. And a new upper class polished to an ever-shinier gloss.

Here’s the paper:  Opting Out among Women with Elite Education

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2 Comments to “Women who graduated from highly selective colleges more likely to drop out of workforce”

  1. Reblogged this on the amateur academic and commented:
    interesting insight into why female graduates of highly selective colleges are more likely to drop of out the workforce. most interesting takeaway is how this “opting out” of the workforce affects the pipeline for management/leadership positions.

  2. ” most interesting takeaway is how this “opting out” of the workforce affects the pipeline for management/leadership positions.”

    And then there’s the oft-repeated complaint that executive working mothers are often competing against men with SAH wives who are taking care of most many home and family issues.

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