Proof That Millennial Women Are Taking Over the World

Young women outpace men in earning college degrees, and have sailed past previous generations in labor force participation, while men work at a lower rate

Photograph: Getty Images

Young women are making rapid gains at work and in the classroom. They're not only graduating college at a much faster rate than their grandmothers; they've also begun to outpace men in earning bachelor's degrees, according to a report released on Thursday by the Pew Research Center.

Pew analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau's current population survey, and found that about 27 percent of women aged 18 to 33 years old hold at least a bachelor's degree. Among millennial men, 21 percent do. The difference is even starker compared with women in the so-called silent generation, people who are 69 to 86 years old: 20 percent of them hold at least a bachelor's degree.

It's not just that young women are graduating college in higher numbers than men; their educational gains have also come at a much faster rate. In the 1960s, only 7 percent of women earned a bachelor's degree by the time they were 33, compared with 12 percent of young men. Three generations later, women are 20 percent more likely to graduate college—and men only 9 percent more likely. "The educational trajectory of young women across the generations has been especially steep," Pew's Eileen Patten and Richard Fry wrote.

Millennial women have also been making rapid gains in the workforce. Most women in the silent generation—59 percent—didn't work when they were young adults, and 42 percent were either unemployed or not in the workforce. For millennial women, the numbers have almost completely reversed: 63 percent are employed, and 37 percent are unemployed or out of the labor force. "This shift to more women in the workplace occurred as early as 1980," Patten and Fry write, "when Boomers were 18 to 33." And while the rate of young women working is still 5 percent lower than men, the share of women in the workforce has jumped 28 percent since the silent generation. For men, it has fallen 10 percent.

As Bloomberg Business previously reported, the fact that women overtook men in earning college degrees for the first time last year may be a sign the wage gap between women and men will narrow, albeit slowly. Women still earn 78 cents for every dollar a man makes, but Pew's report shows how much the higher education and workplace demographics have changed since the ’60s, when women were banned from most Ivy League schools and earned 59 cents to a man's dollar.

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