We are used now to women earning the majority of HS and college degrees. But apparently that has long been the case, at least for high school.
Women predominated among high school graduates in 1900, earning 60 percent of the diplomas issued that year. Men were less likely to graduate from high school because so many of them entered the full-time labor force before or during their early teens. As the chart at the upper left indicates, the proportion of high school diplomas awarded to women declined to about half by the end of the century. While women received a majority of high school diplomas in 1900, postsecondary education was still reserved primarily for men. Women earned only 19 percent of bachelor’s degrees in 1900, but their share doubled to 40 percent by 1930 and remained at about that level in 1940. After World War II, however, the female share of bachelor’s degrees dropped sharply as male veterans flooded into colleges and universities under the G.I. Bill. Not until 1970 did women’s share of college degrees surpass the pre-World War II level. After 1970, however, women’s percentage of college degrees rose briskly, reaching parity in the early 1980s. As the chart at the upper right indicates, women received more than half of all bachelor’s and first professional degrees by 1990.I was unaware that they earned 60% of high school diplomas in 1900 and I was also unaware that they received 40% of bachelors diplomas in 1930.