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Other Opinion: More women in medical school evidence of societal changes

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This year, for the first time, the number of women in medical schools in the United States has surpassed the number of men. According to the Association of Medical Colleges, 50.5% of 2019 medical school students are women.

This is not terribly surprising, given that many more young women than men are attending college. Latest statistics from the U.S. Department of Education indicate that women make up 56 percent of students in the nation's colleges and universities.

Already in 2016, women earned 57 percent of all bachelor's degrees, 59 percent of all master's degrees, and 53 percent of doctorate degrees, according to the Post-Secondary National Policy Institute.

So it stands to reason that more women are gaining admission to medical schools, and more women than men will earn medical degrees.

Behind all of this is an apparent sea change in American education. Traditionally, it was thought that girls would be ahead of boys academically in early years of school, but boys would catch up and surpass girls by the high school years.

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Now it appears that girls get ahead and stay there. Boys, according to an article in The Atlantic, develop an "anti-school, anti-education sentiment" starting early in elementary school. By the time they leave high school, many young men don't see college as worth the effort and expense.

As a result, the 58% men-42% women ratio of college enrollment in the 1970s has been reversed.

When men do attend college today, they are more likely than women to drop out and they tend to take longer to earn their degrees.

This paints a picture of a society made up of young men and women who are making different choices about their future. Young men who enter the workforce without completing college might earn more money right off the bat, but in the long run, people with a bachelor's degree earn 75% more annually than those with only a high school education, according to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

But instead of knocking young men for what some of us might regard as short-sighted choices, let's give credit to young women, who have taken to heart the message that they can succeed in the academic world. The efforts of recent decades to encourage girls to enter STEM studies are bearing fruit -- and might very well be behind the number of young women entering the medical field. Plus, women have had to over-achieve for so long to attain equality, that reaching the top of the academic ladder is a logical next step.

In any event, we find it fascinating to contemplate what these changes could mean for our society. It's sure to have a long-term effect in a medical community like Rochester.

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