For 30 years, Canada's National Graduates Survey (NGS) has asking college and university graduates, "If you could choose again, would you select the same field of study or specialization that you completed?"
As I explain here, the precise wording of the "would you do it again" question has changed over time, as has the placement of the question on the survey, the way graduates are categorized into "university" and "college" students, and how long after graduation the NGS is administered. These changes mean that the NGS cannot say anything meaningful about how graduates' satisfaction with their university experience has changed over time.
Yet as long as changes to the NGS affect women's and men's responses equally, the NGS can tell us something about how the gender gap in university graduates' satisfaction with their education is evolving. Here is a picture:
Some caveats are in order here. The 2013 NGS had a response rate of 46 percent, considerably lower than that of previous surveys. It might have oversampled male malcontents. Also, the data up to and including 1995 includes all university graduates, including those in masters and doctoral programs. The data from 2005 onwards is for Bachelor's and first professional degree holders. Students earning Bachelor's degrees in community colleges are included from 2005 onwards, while students earnings post-graduate degrees excluded. Yet including graduate degree holders only shifts the 2005 and 2013 numbers up. It does not change the pattern of gender difference.
This post is one of an on-going series about the politics, and economics, of university education in Canada. I am searching for some sort of definitive evidence to support or refute the hypothesis that public support for the university sector is fracturing or eroding.
The National Graduate Survey cannot, unfortunately, provide that evidence. Yet it does suggest a possible suspect: something is happening around gender at universities. One possibility is feminization of the student body. Yet the percentage of people earning undergraduate degrees who are female has only gone up slightly in recent decades - from 57% in 1992 to 60% in 2015 (CANSIM 477-0030). That is unlikely to explain the satisfaction reversal shown above. Another possibility is feminization of the professoriate. In 1982, just 15% of full-time university teachers were female. In 2015, 40% were. (CANSIM 447-0017). I have talked on this blog before about what can happen to an occupation when women begin to enter it. (Here. It's not pretty).
I still don't have hard evidence. I feel something is happening to Canadians' attitudes towards universities, but I can't prove it, or explain why.
Note: Stata do file for the exercises in the last three posts, plus some other stuff, downloadable here.