In a demographic shift that mirrors national trends, Tyler’s young women are rapidly becoming much more educated than their male peers.
According to the U.S. census, 60 percent of women who live in Tyler and are between 25 and 34 years old have had at least some college education. About a third of them have a bachelor’s or graduate degree. Just 44 percent of men in the same age group have spent any time in college, and just 22 percent have at least a bachelor’s degree.
This gap is relatively new. Among the previous generation of Tylerites, those ages 35 to 44, women are no more likely than men to hold a degree. And going up the age ladder, the gap is reversed: among retirement-age Tylerites, men are far more likely than women to have gone to college.
This reversal of fortunes is not unique to Tyler. Across the United States and throughout the developed world, women have steadily become overrepresented in higher education. Experts explain the shift in a variety of ways, but three factors seem particularly important when we talk about Tyler:
1. More women enroll in college
For decades, women have been enrolling in local colleges at higher rates than men. In 1980, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, UT Tyler students were 60 percent women, about the same as today. Tyler Junior College’s enrollment is similarly skewed.
The historically black Texas College stands out from other local colleges; in 2015, less than 40 percent of students were women. But overall, the local education gap is actually biggest between African-American men and women. Black women in Tyler are twice as likely as black men to have a bachelor’s or graduate degree.
2. Women are more likely to graduate
Women that start college here are also significantly more likely to finish. At UT Tyler, only a third of men who began a degree program in 2009 had finished six years later. Of the women who started alongside them, nearly half graduated in that time.
The gender gap is smaller at Tyler Junior College, but that school’s graduation rates are so low overall that it’s difficult to compare. Just 17 percent of men and 20 percent of women received their associate’s degree within three years of enrolling.
3. Jobs have shifted to industries that traditionally employ more women
Over the last century, American women have entered virtually every profession and industry. At the same time, the U.S. economy has been in a long-term shift away from traditionally male-dominated jobs, like manufacturing and mining, and toward jobs where women already had a foothold, like education and healthcare.
In Tyler, where healthcare has rapidly expanded to become the single most important local economic driver, there’s a corresponding gender gap in the local workforce. According to the census, in Smith County, women outnumber men in healthcare jobs by more than two-to-one. In education, a field that typically requires a college degree, the ratio is three-to-one.
Put together, these three factors have the potential to radically redistribute the local economic advantages of higher education. The impacts won’t be felt overnight: women here, as anywhere, still have to overcome a pay gap and decades of entrenched sexism in the workplace. Don’t break out the “the future of Tyler is female” shirts just yet. But as we noted in our earlier piece about another shifting demographic in Tyler — age — it seems likely that this change will end up being felt at all levels of local culture and politics.