The FRED® Blog

Women are the majority of the college-educated workforce

For over 30 years, American women have largely surpassed men in earning a bachelor’s degree. In this post, we look at how educational attainment and gender manifest themselves specifically in the labor force.

Before July 2019, college-educated men typically occupied a greater share of the US civilian labor force than college-educated women. Since then, with the exception of a few months, women have occupied the greater share. The FRED graph above shows the composition of men and women 25 years and older from different education groups in the labor force: In January 2024, for example, the share of women 25 years and older with at least a bachelor’s degree was 22.5%. The share of men 25 years and older with at least a bachelor’s degree was 21.5%.

Women have increased their representation in the college-educated labor force since 2019 and maintained that trend even after the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a recession and a decline in the size of the US labor force.

On the other hand, there has been little change in the gender composition of the labor force with less education than a college degree. In July 2019, men 25 years and older with less than a bachelor’s degree comprised 33.2% of the labor force and women in the same category comprised 25.7%. In January 2024, those shares were 31.7% and 24.2%, respectively. Overall, the levels of men and women with less education than a college degree are still higher than the levels of college-educated men and women. And the gap between the share of men and women with less education than a college degree is also larger than the gap between the share of college-educated men and women.

How this graph was created: In FRED, search for and select “Civilian Labor Force – Bachelor’s Degree and Higher, 25 years and over, Women.” This is line (a). From the “Edit Graph” menu and under the “Customize data” tab, search and add “Civilian Labor Force – 25 years and over.” This is line (b). In the “Formula” section, apply a/b*100. For the share of women ages 25 and older with less than a four-year degree, search for the lines in the following order: “Civilian Labor Force – Less than a High School Diploma, 25 years and over, Women”, “Civilian Labor Force – Some College or Associate Degree, 25 years and over, Women”, “Civilian Labor Force – High School Graduates, No College, 25 years and over, Women”, and “Civilian Labor Force – 25 years and over.” Apply the formula (a+b+c)/d*100. Repeat these steps to find the share of men in the labor force.

Suggested by Hoang Le and Paulina Restrepo-Echavarria.