Older and wiser: An event history analysis of women's adult college enrollment behavior

Barbara Jaffe, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation examines factors that influence adult women in their decision to enroll and persist in college. Despite the fact that adult college enrollment represents a large and growing segment of higher education, especially for women, relatively few studies have examined the causes of this enrollment. The often interrupted educational and employment careers of women require event history analysis to sort out the influences of past and present on adult enrollment decisions. Two risk sets of women 25 and older were created using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79): women who started college at a traditional age but stopped out before receiving a degree and women who graduated high school but did not attend college. Four outcomes—return enrollment, full-time enrollment status, three-semester persistence, and degree completion—were analyzed using nested regression models. The first two blocks of fixed variables capture background and early college; the second two cover the family demands that compete for a woman's time as well as her job, which may be a source of motivation and financial resources. Cox regression is used to register each year's changes in marriage, children, and jobs against the event of enrollment. While parent's education is positively associated with adult return enrollment, their income has a contrary effect. The evidence suggests that lower parental income for (both risk sets) and early childbirth (for the high school graduates) predict enrollment because they are likely causes of non-enrollment at younger ages. Finally, having a full-time job, but one of shorter duration, predicts enrollment for both groups of women. The sharp differences between the two groups, however, argue for separating the two groups in future research.

Subject Area

Higher education|Educational sociology|Adult education|Continuing education|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Jaffe, Barbara, "Older and wiser: An event history analysis of women's adult college enrollment behavior" (2005). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3165705.