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Girl Power: Census Report Finds Women Just as Likely as Men to Have Completed College and Hold an Advanced Degree

Women are now just as likely as men to have completed college and to hold an advanced degree, part of an accelerating trend of educational gains that have helped to shield women from recent job losses.

Among adults 25 and older, 29 percent of women in the U.S. have at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with 30 percent of men, according to 2009 census figures released Tuesday. Measured by raw numbers, women already surpass men in undergraduate degrees by roughly 1.2 million.

It’s a tie, as far as advanced degrees are concerned. Women represent roughly half of those in the U.S. with a master’s degree or higher, due largely to years of steady increases in women opting to pursue a medical or law degree.

At current rates, women could pass men in total advanced degrees this year, even though they still trail significantly in several categories such as business, science and engineering.

While young women have been exceeding men in college enrollment since the early 1980s, the educational gains have now progressively spread upward to older age groups. That could have wide ramifications in the workplace: more working mothers, increased child-care needs and a greater focus on pay disparities among them.

While degree equality is ticking up, and then some, pay equality is on the rise, but still not where it should be according to the report. Women with full-time jobs now have weekly earnings equal to 80.2 percent of what men earn, up slightly from 2008 but lower than a high of 81 percent in 2005.

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