Since the mid-20th century, the U.S. has seen a striking shift in the gender dynamics of higher educational attainment as women have come to earn college degrees at higher rates than men. Women have also made significant strides in terms of socioeconomic status and political engagement. What explains the progress that American women have made since the 1960s? While many point to the feminist movement as the critical turning point, Rose makes the case that women's movement toward first class citizenship has been shaped not only by important societal changes, but also by the actions of lawmakers who used a combination of redistributive and regulatory higher education policies to enhance women's incorporation into their roles as American citizens.
Examining the development and impact of the National Defense Education Act of 1958, the Higher Education Act of 1965, and Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments, this author argues that higher education policies represent a crucial-though largely overlooked-factor shaping the progress that women have made. By significantly expanding women's access to college, they helped to pave the way for women to surpass men as the recipients of bachelor's degrees, while also empowering them to become more economically independent, socially integrated, politically engaged members of the American citizenry.