In The

Supreme Court of the United States




Decided July 1, 1982

Justice O’Connor, For the Court


Mississippi University for Women v. Hogan, 458 U.S. 718 (1982), was a case decided 5-4 by the Supreme Court of the United States. The court held that the single-sex admissions policy of the Mississippi University for Women violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Topic: Civil Rights*Court vote: 5–4
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Joining O'Connor opinion: Justice BRENNAN Justice BRENNAN Justice MARSHALL Justice MARSHALL Justice STEVENS Justice STEVENS Justice WHITE Justice WHITE
Holding: The exclusion of men from enrollment in Mississippi University for Women's nursing school violated the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause.
Citation: 458 U.S. 718 Docket: 81–406Audio: Listen to this case's oral arguments at Oyez
This is a landmark case and one of Justice O'Connor's more commonly cited opinions by legal scholars when reviewing her tenure on the Supreme Court.

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JUSTICE O'CONNOR delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case presents the narrow issue of whether a state statute that excludes males from enrolling in a state-supported professional nursing school violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.


The facts are not in dispute. In 1884, the Mississippi Legislature created the Mississippi Industrial Institute and College for the Education of White Girls of the State of Mississippi, now the oldest state-supported all-female college in the United States. 1884 Miss.Gen.Laws, Ch. 30, § 6. The school, known today as Mississippi University for Women (MUW), has from its inception limited its enrollment to women. [ Footnote 1 ]

In 1971, MUW established a School of Nursing, initially offering a 2-year associate degree. Three years later, the school instituted a 4-year baccalaureate program in nursing, and today also offers a graduate program. The School of Nursing has its own faculty and administrative officers, and establishes its own criteria for admission. [ Footnote 2 ]

Respondent, Joe Hogan, is a registered nurse but does not hold a baccalaureate degree in nursing. Since 1974, he has worked as a nursing supervisor in a medical center in Columbus, the city in which MUW is located. In 1979, Hogan applied for admission to the MUW School of Nursing's baccalaureate program. [ Footnote 3 ] Although he was otherwise qualified, he was denied admission to the School of Nursing solely because of his sex. School officials informed him that he could audit the courses in which he was interested, but could not enroll for credit. Tr. 26. [ Footnote 4 ]

Hogan filed an action in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi, claiming the single-sex admissions policy of MUW's School of Nursing violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Hogan sought injunctive and declaratory relief, as well as compensatory damages.

Following a hearing, the District Court denied preliminary injunctive relief. App. to Pet. for Cert. A4. The court concluded that maintenance of MUW as a single-sex school bears a rational relationship to the State's legitimate interest "in providing the greatest practical range of educational opportunities for its female student population." Id. at A3. Furthermore, the court stated, the admissions policy is not arbitrary, because providing single-sex schools is consistent with a respected, though by no means universally accepted, educational theory that single-sex education affords unique benefits to students. Ibid. Stating that the case presented no issue of fact, the court informed Hogan that it would enter summary judgment dismissing his claim unless he tendered a factual issue. When Hogan offered no further evidence, the District Court entered summary judgment in favor of the State. Record 73.

The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed, holding that, because the admissions policy discriminates on the basis of gender, the District Court improperly used a "rational relationship" test to judge the constitutionality of the policy. 646 F.2d 1116, 1118 (1981). Instead, the Court of Appeals stated, the proper test is whether the State has carried the heavier burden of showing that the gender-based classification is substantially related to an important governmental objective. Id. at 1118, 1119. Recognizing that the State has a significant interest in providing educational opportunities for all its citizens, the court then found that the State had failed to show that providing a unique educational opportunity for females, but not for males, bears a substantial relationship to that interest. Id. at 1119. Holding that the policy excluding Hogan because of his sex denies him equal protection of the laws, the court vacated the summary judgment entered against Hogan as to his claim for monetary damages, and remanded for entry of a declaratory judgment in conformity with its opinion and for further appropriate proceedings. Id. at 1119-1120.

On rehearing, the State contended that Congress, in enacting § 901(a)(5) of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Pub.L. 92-318, 86 Stat. 373, 20 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq., expressly had authorized MUW to continue its single-sex admissions policy by exempting public undergraduate institutions that traditionally have used single-sex admissions policies from the gender discrimination prohibition of Title IX. [ Footnote 5 ] Through that provision, the State argued, Congress limited the reach of the Fourteenth Amendment by exercising its power under § 5 of the Amendment. [ Footnote 6 ] The Court of Appeals rejected the argument, holding that § 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment does not grant Congress power to authorize States to maintain practices otherwise violative of the Amendment. 653 F.2d 222 (1981).

We granted certiorari, 454 U.S. 962 (1981), and now affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals. [ Footnote 7 ]


We begin our analysis aided by several firmly established principles. Because the challenged policy expressly discriminates among applicants on the basis of gender, it is subject to scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Reed v. Reed, 404 U. S. 71, 404 U. S. 75 (1971). That this statutory policy discriminates against males, rather than against females, does not exempt it from scrutiny or reduce the standard of review. [ Footnote 8 ] Caban v. Mohammed, 441 U. S. 380, 441 U. S. 394 (1979); Orr v. Orr, 440 U. S. 268, 440 U. S. 279 (1979). Our decisions also establish that the party seeking to uphold a statute that classifies individuals on the basis of their gender must carry the burden of showing an "exceedingly persuasive justification" for the classification. Kirchberg v. Feenstra, 450 U. S. 455, 450 U. S. 461 (1981); Personnel Administrator of Mass. v. Feeney, 442 U. S. 256, 442 U. S. 273 (1979). The burden is met only by showing at least that the classification serves "important governmental objectives, and that the discriminatory means employed" are "substantially related to the achievement of those objectives." Wengler v. Druggists Mutual Ins. Co., 446 U. S. 142, 446 U. S. 150 (1980). [ Footnote 9 ]

Although the test for determining the validity of a gender-based classification is straightforward, it must be applied free of fixed notions concerning the roles and abilities of males and females. Care must be taken in ascertaining whether the statutory objective itself reflects archaic and stereotypic notions. Thus, if the statutory objective is to exclude or "protect" members of one gender because they are presumed to suffer from an inherent handicap or to be innately inferior, the objective itself is illegitimate. See Frontiero v. Richardson, 411 U. S. 677, 411 U. S. 684 -685 (1973) (plurality opinion). [ Footnote 10 ]

If the State's objective is legitimate and important, we next determine whether the requisite direct, substantial relationship between objective and means is present. The purpose of requiring that close relationship is to assure that the validity of a classification is determined through reasoned analysis, rather than through the mechanical application of traditional, often inaccurate, assumptions about the proper roles of men and women. [ Footnote 11 ] The need for the requirement is amply revealed by reference to the broad range of statutes already invalidated by this Court, statutes that relied upon the simplistic, outdated assumption that gender could be used as a "proxy for other, more germane bases of classification," Craig v. Boren, 429 U. S. 190, 429 U. S. 198 (1976), to establish a link between objective and classification. [ Footnote 12 ]

Applying this framework, we now analyze the arguments advanced by the State to justify its refusal to allow males to enroll for credit in MUW's School of Nursing.



The State's primary justification for maintaining the single-sex admissions policy of MUW's School of Nursing is that it compensates for discrimination against women, and therefore constitutes educational affirmative action. Brief for Petitioners 8. [ Footnote 13 ] As applied to the School of Nursing, we find the State's argument unpersuasive.

In limited circumstances, a gender-based classification favoring one sex can be justified if it intentionally and directly assists members of the sex that is disproportionately burdened. See Schlesinger v. Ballard, 419 U. S. 498 (1975). However, we consistently have emphasized that

the mere recitation of a benign, compensatory purpose is not an automatic shield which protects against any inquiry into the actual purposes underlying a statutory scheme.

Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld, 420 U. S. 636, 420 U. S. 648 (1975). The same searching analysis must be made, regardless of whether the State's objective is to eliminate family controversy, Reed v. Reed, 404 U. S. 71 (1971), to achieve administrative efficiency, Frontiero v. Richardson, 411 U. S. 677 (1973), or to balance the burdens borne by males and females.

It is readily apparent that a State can evoke a compensatory purpose to justify an otherwise discriminatory classification only if members of the gender benefited by the classification actually suffer a disadvantage related to the classification. We considered such a situation in Califano v. Webster, 430 U. S. 313 (1977), which involved a challenge to a statutory classification that allowed women to eliminate more low-earning years than men for purposes of computing Social Security retirement benefits. Although the effect of the classification was to allow women higher monthly benefits than were available to men with the same earning history, we upheld the statutory scheme, noting that it took into account that women "as such have been unfairly hindered from earning as much as men" and "work[ed] directly to remedy" the resulting economic disparity. Id. at 430 U. S. 318.

A similar pattern of discrimination against women influenced our decision in Schlesinger v. Ballard, supra. There, we considered a federal statute that granted female Naval officers a 13-year tenure of commissioned service before mandatory discharge, but accorded male officers only a 9-year tenure. We recognized that, because women were barred from combat duty, they had had fewer opportunities for promotion than had their male counterparts. By allowing women an additional four years to reach a particular rank before subjecting them to mandatory discharge, the statute directly compensated for other statutory barriers to advancement.

In sharp contrast, Mississippi has made no showing that women lacked opportunities to obtain training in the field of nursing or to attain positions of leadership in that field when the MUW School of Nursing opened its door, or that women currently are deprived of such opportunities. In fact, in 1970, the year before the School of Nursing's first class enrolled, women earned 94 percent of the nursing baccalaureate degrees conferred in Mississippi and 98.6 percent of the degrees earned nationwide. U.S. Dept. of Health, Education, and Welfare, Earned Degrees Conferred: 1969-1970, Institutional Data 388 (1972). That year was not an aberration; one decade earlier, women had earned all the nursing degrees conferred in Mississippi and 98.9 percent of the degrees conferred nationwide. U.S. Dept. of Health, Education, and Welfare, Earned Degrees Conferred, 1959-1960: Bachelor's and Higher Degrees 135 (1960). As one would expect, the labor force reflects the same predominance of women in nursing. When MUW's School of Nursing began operation, nearly 98 percent of all employed registered nurses were female. [ Footnote 14 ] United States Bureau of Census, 1981 Statistical Abstract of the United States 402 (1981).

Rather than compensate for discriminatory barriers faced by women, MUW's policy of excluding males from admission to the School of Nursing tends to perpetuate the stereotyped view of nursing as an exclusively woman's job. [ Footnote 15 ] By assuring that Mississippi allots more openings in its state-supported nursing schools to women than it does to men, MUW's admissions policy lends credibility to the old view that women, not men, should become nurses, and makes the assumption that nursing is a field for women a self-fulfilling prophecy. See Stanton v. Stanton, 421 U. S. 7 (1975). Thus, we conclude that, although the State recited a "benign, compensatory purpose," it failed to establish that the alleged objective is the actual purpose underlying the discriminatory classification. [ Footnote 16 ]

The policy is invalid also because it fails the second part of the equal protection test, for the State has made no showing that the gender-based classification is substantially and directly related to its proposed compensatory objective. To the contrary, MUW's policy of permitting men to attend classes as auditors fatally undermines its claim that women, at least those in the School of Nursing, are adversely affected by the presence of men.

MUW permits men who audit to participate fully in classes. Additionally, both men and women take part in continuing education courses offered by the School of Nursing, in which regular nursing students also can enroll. Deposition of Dr. James Strobel 56-60 and Deposition of Dean Annette K. Barrar 24-26. The uncontroverted record reveals that admitting men to nursing classes does not affect teaching style, Deposition of Nancy L. Herban 4, that the presence of men in the classroom would not affect the performance of the female nursing students, Tr. 61 and Deposition of Dean Annette K. Barrar 7-8, and that men in coeducational nursing schools do not dominate the classroom. Deposition of Nancy Herban 6. In sum, the record in this case is flatly inconsistent with the claim that excluding men from the School of Nursing is necessary to reach any of MUW's educational goals.

Thus, considering both the asserted interest and the relationship between the interest and the methods used by the State, we conclude that the State has fallen far short of establishing the "exceedingly persuasive justification" needed to sustain the gender-based classification. Accordingly, we hold that MUW's policy of denying males the right to enroll for credit in its School of Nursing violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. [ Footnote 17 ]


In an additional attempt to justify its exclusion of men from MUW's School of Nursing, the State contends that MUW is the direct beneficiary "of specific congressional legislation which, on its face, permits the institution to exist as it has in the past." Brief for Petitioners 19. The argument is based upon the language of § 901(a) in Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a). Although § 901(a) prohibits gender discrimination in education programs that receive federal financial assistance, subsection 5 exempts the admissions policies of undergraduate institutions "that traditionally and continually from [their] establishment [have] had a policy of admitting only students of one sex" from the general prohibition. See n 5, supra. Arguing that Congress enacted Title IX in furtherance of its power to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment, a power granted by § 5 of that Amendment, the State would have us conclude that § 901(a)(5) is but "a congressional limitation upon the broad prohibitions of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment." Brief for Petitioners 20.

The argument requires little comment. Initially, it is far from clear that Congress intended, through § 901(a)(5), to exempt MUW from any constitutional obligation. Rather, Congress apparently intended, at most, to exempt MUW from the requirements of Title IX.

Even if Congress envisioned a constitutional exemption, the State's argument would fail. Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment gives Congress broad power indeed to enforce the command of the Amendment and "to secure to all persons the enjoyment of perfect equality of civil rights and the equal protection of the laws against State denial or invasion...." Ex parte Virginia, 100 U. S. 339, 100 U. S. 346 (1880). Congress' power under § 5, however, "is limited to adopting measures to enforce the guarantees of the Amendment; § 5 grants Congress no power to restrict, abrogate, or dilute these guarantees." Katzenbach v. Morgan, 384 U. S. 641, 384 U. S. 651, n. 10 (1966). Although we give deference to congressional decisions and classifications, neither Congress nor a State can validate a law that denies the rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. See, e.g., Califano v. Goldfarb, 430 U. S. 199, 430 U. S. 210 (1977); Williams v. Rhodes, 393 U. S. 23, 393 U. S. 29 (1968).

The fact that the language of § 901(a)(5) applies to MUW provides the State no solace:

[A] statute apparently governing a dispute cannot be applied by judges, consistently with their obligations under the Supremacy Clause, when such an application of the statute would conflict with the Constitution. Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137 (1803).

Younger v. Harris, 401 U. S. 37, 401 U. S. 52 (1971).


Because we conclude that the State's policy of excluding males from MUW's School of Nursing violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, we affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

It is so ordered.


[ Footnote 1 ]

The charter of MUW, basically unchanged since its founding, now provides:

The purpose and aim of the Mississippi State College for Women is the moral and intellectual advancement of the girls of the state by the maintenance of a first-class institution for their education in the arts and sciences, for their training in normal school methods and kindergarten, for their instruction in bookkeeping, photography, stenography, telegraphy, and typewriting, and in designing, drawing, engraving, and painting, and their industrial application, and for their instruction in fancy, general and practical needlework, and in such other industrial branches as experience, from time to time, shall suggest as necessary or proper to fit them for the practical affairs of life.

Miss.Code Ann. § 37-117-3 (1972).

Mississippi maintains no other single-sex public university or college. Thus, we are not faced with the question of whether States can provide "separate but equal" undergraduate institutions for males and females. Cf. Vorchheimer v. School District of Philadelphia, 532 F.2d 880 (CA3 1975), aff'd by an equally divided Court, 430 U. S. 703 (1977).

[ Footnote 2 ]

Record, Exhibit 1, 1980-1981 Bulletin of Mississippi University for Women 31-34, 212-229.

[ Footnote 3 ]

With a baccalaureate degree, Hogan would be able to earn a higher salary and would be eligible to obtain specialized training as an anesthetist. Tr. 18.

[ Footnote 4 ]

Dr. James Strobel, President of MUW, verified that men could audit the equivalent of a full class-load in either night or daytime classes. Id. at 390.

[ Footnote 5 ]

Section 901(a) of Title IX, Education Amendments of 1972, Pub.L. 92-318, 86 Stat. 373, 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a), provides in part:

(a) No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance, except that:

(1)... in regard to admissions to educational institutions, this section shall apply only to institutions of vocational education, professional education, and graduate higher education, and to public institutions of undergraduate higher education; * * * *

(5)... in regard to admissions this section shall not apply to any public institution of undergraduate higher education which is an institution that traditionally and continually from its establishment has had a policy of admitting only students of one sex....

[ Footnote 6 ]

Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment provides:

The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

[ Footnote 7 ]

Although some statements in the Court of Appeals' decision refer to all schools within MUW, see 646 F.2d at 1119, the factual underpinning of Hogan's claim for relief involved only his exclusion from the nursing program, Complaint 8-10, and the Court of Appeals' holding applies only to Hogan's individual claim for relief. 646 F.2d at 1119-1120. Additionally, during oral argument, counsel verified that Hogan sought only admission to the School of Nursing. Tr. of Oral Arg. 24. Because Hogan's claim is thus limited, and because we review judgments, not statements in opinions, Black v. Cutter Laboratories, 351 U. S. 292 (1956), we decline to address the question of whether MUW's admissions policy, as applied to males seeking admission to schools other than the School of Nursing, violates the Fourteenth Amendment.

[ Footnote 8 ]

Without question, MUW's admissions policy worked to Hogan's disadvantage. Although Hogan could have attended classes and received credit in one of Mississippi's state-supported coeducational nursing programs, none of which was located in Columbus, he could attend only by driving a considerable distance from his home. Tr.19-20, 63-65. A similarly situated female would not have been required to choose between forgoing credit and bearing that inconvenience. Moreover, since many students enrolled in the School of Nursing hold full-time jobs, Deposition of Dean Annette K. Barrar 29-30, Hogan's female colleagues had available an opportunity, not open to Hogan, to obtain credit for additional training. The policy of denying males the right to obtain credit toward a baccalaureate degree thus imposed upon Hogan "a burden he would not bear were he female." Orr v. Orr, 440 U. S. 268, 440 U. S. 273 (1979).

[ Footnote 9 ]

In his dissenting opinion, JUSTICE POWELL argues that a less rigorous test should apply, because Hogan does not advance a "serious equal protection claim." Post at 458 U. S. 742. JUSTICE BLACKMUN, without proposing an alternative test, labels the test applicable to gender-based discrimination as "rigid" and productive of "needless conformity." Post at 458 U. S. 734, 458 U. S. 735. Our past decisions establish, however, that when a classification expressly discriminates on the basis of gender, the analysis and level of scrutiny applied to determine the validity of the classification do not vary simply because the objective appears acceptable to individual Members of the Court. While the validity and importance of the objective may affect the outcome of the analysis, the analysis itself does not change.

Thus, we apply the test previously relied upon by the Court to measure the constitutionality of gender-based discrimination. Because we conclude that the challenged statutory classification is not substantially related to an important objective, we need not decide whether classifications based upon gender are inherently suspect. See Stanton v. Stanton, 421 U. S. 7, 421 U. S. 13 (1975).

[ Footnote 10 ]

History provides numerous examples of legislative attempts to exclude women from particular areas simply because legislators believed women were less able than men to perform a particular function. In 1873, this Court remained unmoved by Myra Bradwell's argument that the Fourteenth Amendment prohibited a State from classifying her as unfit to practice law simply because she was female. Bradwell v. Illinois, 16 Wall. 130 (1873). In his opinion concurring in the judgment, Justice Bradley described the reasons underlying the State's decision to determine which positions only men could fill:

It is the prerogative of the legislator to prescribe regulations founded on nature, reason, and experience for the due admission of qualified persons to professions and callings demanding special skill and confidence. This fairly belongs to the police power of the State; and, in my opinion, in view of the peculiar characteristics, destiny, and mission of woman, it is within the province of the legislature to ordain what offices, positions, and callings shall be filled and discharged by men, and shall receive the benefit of those energies and responsibilities, and that decision and firmness which are presumed to predominate in the sterner sex.

Id. at 83 U. S. 142.

In a similar vein, the Court in Goesaert v. Cleary, 335 U. S. 464, 335 U. S. 466 (1948), upheld a legislature's right to preclude women from bartending, except under limited circumstances, on the ground that the legislature could devise preventive measures against "moral and social problems" that result when women, but apparently not men, tend bar. Similarly, the many protective labor laws enacted in the late 19th and early 20th centuries often had as their objective the protection of weaker workers, which the laws assumed meant females. See generally B. Brown, A. Freedman, H. Katz, & A. Price, Women's Rights and the Law 209-210 (1977).

[ Footnote 11 ]

For instance, in Stanton v. Stanton, supra, this Court invalidated a state statute that specified a greater age of majority for males than for females, and thereby affected the period during which a divorced parent was responsible for supporting his children. We did not question the importance or validity of the State's interest in defining parents' obligation to support children during their minority. On analysis, however, we determined that the purported relationship between that objective and the gender-based classification was based upon traditional assumptions that

the female [is] destined solely for the home and the rearing of the family, and only the male for the marketplace and the world of ideas.... If a specified age of minority is required for the boy in order to assure him parental support while he attains his education and training, so, too, is it for the girl.

421 U.S. at 421 U. S. 14 -15. Once those traditional notions were abandoned, no basis for finding a substantial relationship between classification and objective remained.

[ Footnote 12 ]

See, e.g., Kirchberg v. Feenstra, 450 U. S. 455 (1981) (statute granted only husbands the right to manage and dispose of jointly owned property without the spouse's consent); Wengler v. Druggists Mutual Ins. Co., 446 U. S. 142 (1980) (statute required a widower, but not a widow, to show he was incapacitated from earning to recover benefits for a spouse's death under workers' compensation laws); Orr v. Orr, supra, (only men could be ordered to pay alimony following divorce); Craig v. Boren, 429 U. S. 190 (1976) (women could purchase "nonintoxicating" beer at a younger age than could men); Stanton v. Stanton, supra (women reached majority at an earlier age than did men); Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld, 420 U. S. 636 (1975) (widows, but not widowers, could collect survivors' benefits under the Social Security Act); Frontiero v. Richardson, 411 U. S. 677 (1973) (determination of spouse's dependency based upon gender of member of Armed Forces claiming dependency benefits); Reed v. Reed, 404 U. S. 71 (1971) (statute preferred men to women as administrators of estates).

[ Footnote 13 ]

In the reply brief, the State understandably retreated from its contention that MUW was founded to provide opportunities for women which were not available to men. Reply Brief for Petitioners 4. Apparently, the impetus for founding MUW came not from a desire to provide women with advantages superior to those offered men, but rather from a desire to provide white women in Mississippi access to state-supported higher learning. In 1856, Sally Reneau began agitating for a college for white women. Those initial efforts were unsuccessful, and, by 1870, Mississippi provided higher education only for white men and black men and women. E. Mayes, History of Education in Mississippi 178, 228, 245, 259, 266, 270 (1899) (hereinafter Mayes). See also S. Neilson, The History of Mississippi State College for Women 4-5 (unpublished manuscript, 1952) (hereinafter Neilson). In 1882, two years before MUW was chartered, the University of Mississippi opened its doors to women. However, the institution was in those early years not "extensively patronized by females, most of those who come being such as desire to qualify themselves to teach." Mayes at 178. By 1890, the largest number of women in any class at the University had been 23, while nearly 350 women enrolled in the first session of MUW. Id. at 178, 253. Because the University did not solicit the attendance of women until after 1920, and did not accept women at all for a time between 1907 and 1920, most Mississippi women who attended college attended MUW. Neilson at 86. Thus, in Mississippi, as elsewhere in the country, women's colleges were founded to provide some form of higher education for the academically disenfranchised. See generally 2 T. Woody, A History of Women's Education in the United States 137-223 (1929); L. Baker, I'm Radcliffe! Fly Me! The Seven Sisters and the Failure of Women's Education 22, 136-141 (1976).

[ Footnote 14 ]

Relatively little change has taken place during the past 10 years. In 1980, women received more than 94 percent of the baccalaureate degrees conferred nationwide, National Center for Education Statistics, 1981 Digest of Education Statistics 121 (1981), and constituted 96.5 percent of the registered nurses in the labor force. United States Bureau of Census, 1981 Statistical Abstract of the United States 402 (1981).

[ Footnote 15 ]

Officials of the American Nurses Association have suggested that excluding men from the field has depressed nurses' wages. Hearings before the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Job Segregation and Wage Discrimination 510-511, 517-518, 523 (Apr.1980). To the extent the exclusion of men has that effect, MUW's admissions policy actually penalizes the very class the State purports to benefit. Cf. Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld, 420 U. S. 636 (1975).

[ Footnote 16 ]

Even were we to assume that discrimination against women affects their opportunity to obtain an education or to obtain leadership roles in nursing, the challenged policy nonetheless would be invalid, for the State has failed to establish that the legislature intended the single-sex policy to compensate for any perceived discrimination. Cf. Califano v. Webster, 430 U. S. 313, 430 U. S. 318 (1977) (legislative history of the compensatory statute revealed that Congress "directly addressed the justification for differing treatment of men and women" and "purposely enacted the more favorable treatment for female wage earners...."). The State has provided no evidence whatever that the Mississippi Legislature has ever attempted to justify its differing treatment of men and women seeking nurses' training. Indeed, the only statement of legislative purpose is that in § 37-117-3 of the Mississippi Code, see n 1, supra, a statement that relies upon the very sort of archaic and overbroad generalizations about women that we have found insufficient to justify a gender-based classification. E.g., Orr v. Orr, 440 U. S. 268 (1979); Stanton v. Stanton, 421 U. S. 7 (1975).

[ Footnote 17 ]

JUSTICE POWELL's dissent suggests that a second objective is served by the gender-based classification in that Mississippi has elected to provide women a choice of educational environments. Post at 458 U. S. 742 -744. Since any gender-based classification provides one class a benefit or choice not available to the other class, however, that argument begs the question. The issue is not whether the benefited class profits from the classification, but whether the State's decision to confer a benefit only upon one class by means of a discriminatory classification is substantially related to achieving a legitimate and substantial goal.

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