South Africa: women much more likely to complete degree than men

Female advantage in education dubbed the ‘Martha Effect’ in Stellenbosch study

December 12, 2017
Source: istock

Two-thirds more women get bachelor’s degrees from South African universities than men, according to new research.

The study, which looks at the attainment of more than 112,000 students throughout their time at university, found that women have an advantage over men that grows at every stage of higher education.  

The researchers dub this the “Martha Effect” that sees women get smarter, based on the idea of the “Matthew Effect” whereby the rich get richer.

The study, conducted by two researchers from Stellenbosch University’s department of economics, Nicholas Spaull and Hendrik van Broekhuizen, followed the 2008 cohort entering South African higher education for six years.

Compared with men, 27 per cent more women qualified for university and 32 per cent more women enrolled.

It found that women are 20 per cent less likely to drop out of higher education compared with men.

In terms of completing a bachelor’s degree, 66 per cent more women do so than men, according to the research.

“We find indisputable evidence of a large female advantage that continues to grow at each hurdle of the higher education process,” the pair write in the working paper.

Dr Spaull and Mr van Broekhuizen add: “We show that this female advantage remains after controlling for school-level performance, and exists for all subgroups of race, age, socioeconomic status, and province of origin.”

However, the study found that female students were significantly less likely to get a degree in traditionally male subjects, such as computer science and engineering.

holly.else@timeshighereducation.com

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