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Gender Matters
Study Says Fatherlessness Contributes to Higher Ed Gender Gap

Social scientists might be getting closer to understanding a trend that has baffled policymakers and upended cultural debates for the past ten years: the widening higher education gender gap. No, not the deficit of women in STEM fields (a gender gap the media is much more comfortable reporting on, and that universities are much more comfortable trying to address), but, rather, the increasingly acute deficit of men on college campuses in the first place. A new paper in a major academic journal argues that the decline in male educational attainment can be traced in part to the rise of fatherless homes. Growing up without a father, the authors claim, harms the educational prospects of boys more than it harms the prospects of their sisters. Anna Sutherland of the Institute for Family Studies summarizes the paper’s findings:

In a new article in Family Relations, William Doherty, Brian Willoughby, and Jason Wilde provide evidence for a thesis not many have considered: Changes in family structure have contributed to the growing gender gap in college enrollment. Growing up with stably married parents makes children of both sexes more likely to succeed at school, even controlling for socioeconomic status, but father absence seems to hurt boys more than it does girls. Thus, as father absence becomes more prevalent, girls gain a relative advantage in the classroom.

 As with all complicated social science studies going into uncharted terrain, there is surely more work to be done to show that the relationship is really a causal one, and more studies would be needed to confirm the findings. But if future research were to support this thesis, that would paint a rather grim picture. While other hypotheses for why men are being left in the dust when it comes to higher education point to somewhat straightforward fixes, like creating primary school classroom environments better suited to boys’ needs, the relationship highlighted in this study points to a deep-rooted vicious cycle: Fatherless homes lead to poorer educational outcomes for boys, which makes those boys less “marriageable” when they mature, which makes it more likely that their sons will also grow up in fatherless homes.

Regular readers know that we at Via Meadia want to see major reforms brought to the higher education system, but even in the current system the declining educational attainment of a large swathe of American men is clearly not a good sign, for the economy or for our social fabric. Addressing it would probably require a range of reforms, to our education system, to our tax structure, and to cultural mores. But for now, perhaps the best takeaway from the study is that the decline of the two-parent family may be a cause—and not only a consequence—of some of America’s most pressing social challenges.

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  • Fat_Man

    Well, “Heather Has Two Mommies” is now the law of the land, so your ideas about helping two parent father & mother families are unconstitutional.

    Furthermore, the DoE and the Colleges have declared war on heterosexual men on campus. Their presence has been declared to be a violation of Federal laws against sex discrimination. As we all know, those laws protect women from men, and confer no rights on the oppressors.

    • Zamzam

      What does “Heather Has Two Mommies” have to do with this at all? Gay couples with kids are providing kids with a stable, two-parent family. How many gay people have kids in a one-parent household? My guess is about 6 in the whole country, and most of them are probably widow(er)s. The overwhelming majority of one-parent households are heterosexual women. Blame heterosexual women’s parenting choices, not gay couples’.

  • Anthony

    Kay Hymowitz has researched and written (as some others) about these matters for years: Boy Trouble –

    Also: Culture and Achievement –

    And as a response to critic of interpretation:

  • Jim__L

    “Addressing it would probably require a range of reforms, to our education system, to our tax structure, and to cultural mores. ”

    None of that is in any way acceptable to the Title 9’ers who are strangling our university systems. Abolishing the power of that particular brand of parasite is essential to solving our country’s problems.

    They have their imagined “War on women”, which they are dealing with by declaring War on Boys. It’s a sick cycle that can only get worse as long as it is allowed to continue.

  • CapitalHawk

    I think the statement that “Fatherless homes lead to poorer educational outcomes for boys” is true, but doesn’t say quite enough. I would say that fatherless homes lead to poorer educational outcomes for boys where the school system punishes anyone who does not behave like a stereotypical girl. Which is, of course, the system we have in the entire USA right now. In this, the educational system is just following the lead of the rest of society which seems to think that boys are just defective girls and if they are a bit too defective, we will drug them until they comply. Take away the only man who will spend the time helping a boy navigate a world that is increasingly hostile to him, and it is no surprise that he starts to perform poorly in school (and lots of other things).

  • FriendlyGoat

    You guys just figured out that the decline of the two-parent family is a cause of social challenges? And you want to do WHAT to the “tax structure” in response?

    • Tom

      We figured it out with the Moynihan report. Which you and yours did your level best to flush down the memory hole.

      • FriendlyGoat

        And you and yours did “what”, once again, with the Moynihan report?

        • Tom

          Well, we really couldn’t do anything, seeing as y’all had control of Congress at the time, and did until 1994.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Yeah, that just ruined your Ronald Reagan party. C’mon, Tom. The idea that political conservatives were going to “save the family” but the liberals wouldn’t allow it is a stretch too far for even you.

          • Tom

            And, as far as I’m concerned, political liberals have never done anything in my lifetime except lie about their actual objectives. Go peddle your blather on the Daily Kos, where someone will actually believe you.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Ah, but I have a right to think and speak anywhere just as much as “the regulars” in this club of mutual-back-slapping cynics do. I have never cared whether any of you actually believe me. I still don’t.

          • Tom

            Just as I have a right to tell you that I think you’re obnoxious and unpleasant to be around. It is, after all, a free country.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Yep, it is.

          • Dale Fayda

            The main goal of the American left has always been to turn as many people as possible into helpless supplicants of their failing welfare state. The American left is SOLELY responsible for the collapse of American family norms and for the elimination of any notion of morality from the public square. Fact.

            From the beginning of the “free love” movement in the mid-60’s, to the mainstreaming of drug use, to the de-stigmatization of unwed motherhood, to the left’s religious devotion to abortion and the defense of the butchers like Kermit Gosnell and the murderous ghouls of Planned Parenthood, to the judicial fiat imposition of gay “marriage” today – ALL of these perversions have been created, championed, defended to the death and legislated into being by the left.

            In fact, as I have said on this site before, there is NO deviancy too heinous for the left to promote. None. For the left, no argument is ever over and no victory is ever enough. The left can not and will not ever stop in gutting all notions of religion and morality in society. Liberalism is a cancer, devouring its host organism for no other reason other than that’s what it does – that’s ALL it does.





            Your claim that conservatives did nothing to try to stem this tide is a BOLD-FACED LIE and you know it.

            Truly, liberalism is a mental disorder.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Dale, I’ve been really busy lately and don’t have time for extended debate here. Could I just ask you—–seriously, with a “please”— to consider that the first paragraph of your post is about conservatives’ belief that rich people are somehow bearing all the “burdens” of poor people (while actually getting MUCH richer as a group) and that your party’s main desire to relieve the rich people from their “burdens”?

            That was my point all along.

    • Fred

      Can you say non sequitor?

      • FriendlyGoat

        Sorry, I have no idea what you’re talking about.

        • Fred

          Really? I thought it was obvious. Your comment implied that decline of the family has something (not clear what) to do with Republican tax policy. Family breakdown and tax policy are two completely unrelated issues. The decline of the family started in the late 1960s and picked up speed throughout the 1970s. From 1968 to 1979 the top income tax rate was 70%. The top rate on capital gains was nearly 40%, and the top corporate income tax rate averaged 49% and reached as high as 53%. In the same period, divorce increased 51%; the percentage of children in single family households increased nearly 100%, and illegitimacy increased a whopping 140%. Obviously there is zero correlation between high taxes on corporations and “the wealthy” and family stability. However, the same period also saw increased availability of “the pill,” the sexual revolution, the rise of the feminist and gay movements, the mainstreaming of pornography and drug use, the banishment of religion from the public square, in short all those social changes you “progressives” love so much. So there is a very strong correlation between those social changes and family decline, which indicates to me that to slow, much less stop or reverse that decline, we need to look at social policy; tax policy is irrelevant.

          • FriendlyGoat

            I thought tax policy was irrelevant to this too. That’s why my first comment simply questioned why TAI (not I) linked a reference to some need for unspecified tax changes on THIS article on THIS subject.

          • Fred

            I very rarely follow links. Maybe I should. In the immortal words of Emily Litella, “That’s very different. Never mind.”

  • JollyGreenChemist

    More evidence that after a divorce, the children (especially sons). should placed with the father. As the saying goes, mothers raise children, fathers raise adults.

  • gabrielsyme

    The sexual revolution continues to bear its poisoned fruit in profusion. The notion that it’s far more important that adults have unfettered sexual license (a license that has made adults less happy on balance) than children be raised in stable and loving homes is gravely immoral and a triumph of the strong over the weak. No set of policies (no-fault divorce, abortion-on-demand, etc.) have had a more profoundly negative effect on the poor and on disadvantaged communities. Tinkering on the edges will have little effect – the entire edifice of the sexual revolution needs to be burned to the ground.

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