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For The First Time In U.S. History, Women Are Better Educated Than Their Husbands

But the wage gap persists.

Throughout American history, it’s been pretty safe to assume that within a married heterosexual couple, the husband would be better educated. This was, of course, based on numerous societal factors that discouraged or blocked women’s access to higher education.

But now, for the first time, married women are better educated than their husbands.

A study released by the Institute for Family Studies (IFS) found that a record 25.3% of husbands are now married to wives who have more education than they do. In comparison, women marry men with higher education levels 24.5% of the time. This reversal comes after a shift that started around 1990 when the number of men who were better educated than their wives began to drop.

Photo by COD Newsroom/Flickr.

A major reason for this change in married households is the trend toward more women enrolling in college, and an increasing number of men are opting out. This fall, 56% of all college students in America were women. According to a report in GOOD, there is a gap in college-interest levels beginning in high school. “Fifty-nine percent of female high school freshman say they expect to complete a bachelor’s or graduate degree, but only 53% of males say the same,” the report says. One reason? Many men believe college isn’t the only road to success and decide to pursue a trade or head directly into the workforce after high school.

While married women are now better educated than their husbands, the wage gap in most married households is still significant. According to the IFS, 73% of married men have higher incomes than their spouses, down from 91% in 1960. There are numerous reasons for the difference in earnings that range from workplace discrimination to the pressure that many families place on women to be caregivers, which hinders their career options.

So, while women are making gains on the education front, we hope to see more progress — and quickly.

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