August 17, 2011

Women See Value and Benefits of College; Men Lag on Both Fronts, Survey Finds

II. How Important Is a College Education?

II. How Important Is a College Education?

Most Americans believe that a college education is necessary for people to advance in life. According to a 2009 Pew Research survey, 73% of all adults agreed that, in order to get ahead in life these days, it is necessary to get a college education.2 The current survey finds that the public is inclined to see college as being more important for women than for men. When asked whether they agree or disagree that “In order to get ahead in life these days, it is necessary for a woman to get a college education,” more than three-in-four respondents (77%) say they agree. In contrast, when the same question is asked about a man, only 68% agree. Men (75%) are just as likely as women (78%) to say that it’s necessary for a woman to have a college education. Both men and women place less importance on a man’s attaining a college education—66% of men and 70% of women say that for a man to get ahead, it’s necessary to go to college.

In general, college-educated adults are more likely than those who do not have a four-year college degree to say it’s necessary for both women and men to have a college education in order to get ahead in life these days. More than eight-in-ten college graduates (83%) say it’s necessary for a woman to have a college education, and 74% say college is necessary for a man. By contrast, among non-college graduates, 74% say it is necessary for women to have a college education, and 66% say the same about men. Similarly, first-generation immigrants are more likely than those who have longer roots in America to agree that a college education is necessary for both men and women.

Those who live on the East Coast place a great deal of importance on women’s education. Among East Coast residents, nearly nine-in-ten (88%) think that college is necessary for a woman. This compares with 74% of adults in the rest of the country. When it comes to men’s education, there are no regional differences. Those who hold liberal political views are more likely than conservatives to agree that a college education is a necessity for a woman (82% vs.74%). Liberals and conservatives do not differ in their views on the importance of a college education for a man.

  1. See Pew Social & Demographic Trends, “Recession Turns a Graying Office Grayer,” Sept. 3, 2009 (http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2009/09/03/recession-turns-a-graying-office-grayer/ ).