Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Unpacking the Gender Gap in Postsecondary Participation among African Americans and Caucasians Using Hierarchical Generalized Linear Modeling

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Unpacking the Gender Gap in Postsecondary Participation among African Americans and Caucasians Using Hierarchical Generalized Linear Modeling

Article excerpt

National reports recognize a growing gender gap in postsecondary enrollment as a major challenge impacting the lives of young men, particularly African Americans. Previous gender and race specific research is largely inconclusive. It is, for example, unclear from previous research how persistent the gender gap is across various school contexts, student demographics, and process characteristics. Drawing data from National Educational Longitudinal Study, the present study uses Hierarchical Generalized Liner Modeling (HGLM) to examine both student and school level characteristics that explain variations in college enrollment among African American men and women (with Caucasians included as a contrast group). Results showed that student level characteristics including gender, socioeconomic status, and race were all significant predictors of postsecondary enrollment. Furthermore, home process characteristics (including students' consistency of postsecondary expectations and parental involvement) significantly explained college enrollment when controlling for student home background factors. When considering school level variables, only the percentage of students receiving free or reduced lunch and the percentage of minorities in the school were significant predictors of college enrollment above and beyond what was contributed at the student level, that is, student background and home process factors.

Keywords: gender, college access, African Americans


National reports spark concerns that the proportion of young women enrolled in college is exceeding those of men, and such gap has widened over time (Snyder, Dillow, & Hoffman, 2009). Men enjoyed the college enrollment advantages over females in the 1960s and the early parts of the 1970s, but the trend has shifted toward women since the 1980s (King, 2000). Evidence suggests that the economic changes, and the financial hardships felt by middle class families during the 1980s, influenced young men either to avoid college entirely or to drop out of college to pursue immediate financial and employment opportunities (King, 2000).

The college enrollment gaps are even larger in recent years. Between the years 1999 and 2009, for example, women's college enrollment increased by 63%, while the college enrollment of men increased only by 36% (U.S. Department of Education, 2010). Women have also slightly surpassed men in degree attainment. Between 1999 and 2009, women increased bachelor's degree attainment by 34% while men increased by 32% (U.S. Department of Education, 2010).

Statistics further indicate that although the disparity in college enrollment is consistent along racial and ethnic lines, the gender gap is highest for African Americans in comparison to Caucasians (King, 2000; Peter & Horn, 2005). Peter and Horn (2005) found that while Caucasian men and women of traditional college age differ in college enrollment by just two percentage points (49% for men to 51% for women); the difference among African Americans is 26 percentage points (37% men to 63% women). Given the social and economic benefits a college education provides, including gainful employment, improved quality of life, and becoming an informed and democratic citizen (Baum & Payea, 2004; Laura, 2005), African American men's disadvantages in college attainment when compared to their female counterparts is concerning.


Research in higher education has provided ample evidence of the differences among men and women on college enrollment and degree attainment. The research evidence, however, is unclear about which factors contribute to this gender gap and what strategies help reduce the gaps.

Educational research suggests that gender socialization, along with objective factors, such as the family's socioeconomic status (SES), may contribute to variations in educational outcomes between African American men and women (Brown, Linver, Evans, & DeGennaro, 2008; Hill, 2001). …

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