Why are women underrepresented in elite colleges and universities? A non-linear decomposition analysis

Rob Bielby, Julie Renee Posselt, Ozan Jaquette, Michael N. Bastedo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Scopus citations

Abstract

The emerging female advantage in education has received considerable attention in the popular media and recent research. We examine a persistent exception to this trend: women’s underrepresentation in America’s most competitive colleges and universities. Using nationally generalizable data spanning four decades, we evaluate evidence for three possible explanations. First, we analyze whether men’s academic profiles more closely match the admissions preferences of elite institutions. Next, we consider organizational preferences for male applicants. Finally, we test whether women self-select out of elite institutions through their application choices. Using Blinder–Oaxaca non-linear decomposition techniques and multinomial logistic regression, we find that men’s advantage in standardized test scores best explains the enrollment gap. Our analyses thus suggest that the gender enrollment gap in elite colleges and universities is a matter of access, not student choice. We discuss the implications of these results for educational equity and college admissions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)735-760
Number of pages26
JournalResearch in Higher Education
Volume55
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

Keywords

  • Elite institutions
  • Enrollment
  • Gender
  • Longitudinal data
  • Non-linear decomposition
  • Stratification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education

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