Why Do Women Graduate To A Pay Gap?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the hourly wages of women's are 14 percent lower than men's.  This pay gap, which can be found in many occupations, has important implications for women's lifetime earnings and financial security well into old age.  Having less money also means that "that women have more limited choices. The pay gap influences the neighborhoods in which women live, the educational opportunities they offer their children, and the food they put on their tables. [...] Because married couples tend to prioritize the career of the higher-earning spouse, the pay gap negatively affects married women’s careers in other ways. Women are more likely than men to relocate for their spouses’ jobs, and they are more likely to leave the workforce or reduce their work hours after becoming parents."

While few would dispute the existence of the pay gap, experts disagree about its causes.  To estimate the effect of gender on wages, a 2012 American Association of University Women (AAUW) study examined data on approximately 15,000 men and women.  They opted to restrict the study to men and women working full time in 2009, just one year after college graduation in 2007–08, to avoid confounding factors which affect labor market outcomes: "You might expect the pay gap between men and women in this group of workers of similar age, education, and family responsibilities to be small or nonexistent." Their analyses controlled for: graduates’ occupation, economic sector, hours worked, employment status (having multiple jobs as opposed to one full-time job), months unemployed since graduation, grade point average, undergraduate major, kind of institution attended, age, geographical region, and marital status.

They found that one year out of college, the pay gap is already established, with women working full-time earning 82 percent of what their male peers earn.  Accounting for those factors known to affect wages reduces the pay gap to seven percent, but does not make it disappear.

One of the main factors driving pay differences is the choice of college major: "Men are more likely than women to major in fields like engineering and computer science, which typically lead to higher-paying jobs. Women are more likely than men to major in fields like education and the social sciences, which typically lead to lower-paying jobs."

But there's evidence that a pay gap exists even among men and women who majored in the same fields, most likely because "male engineering majors are more likely than their female counterparts to work as engineers after graduation. Women are more likely than men to work in business support and administrative assistance occupations and as teachers, social services professionals, and nurses and other health care providers one year after college graduation. Men are more likely than women to work in business and management occupations, computer and physical science occupations, and as engineers. The jobs that primarily employ men tend to pay more than the jobs that primarily employ women."

The authors of the study noted that "In some fields, the earnings of men and women were similar, but in no occupational category did women earn significantly more than men" and that pay differences persisted even when controlling for occupation, hours worked, and economic sector. They hypothesize that gender discrimination, and a gender difference in willingness and ability to negotiate salary, may account for some portion of the unexplained gap.

Read more:

TeachingwithData.org resources:
Gender and Occupation: A Data-Driven Learning Guide (http://www.teachingwithdata.org/resource/3444)
Gender in STEM Education: A Data-Driven Learning Guide (http://www.teachingwithdata.org/resource/3446)
Exploring the Second Shift: A Data-Driven Learning Guide (http://www.teachingwithdata.org/resource/3240)
Gender Inequality in the United States (http://www.teachingwithdata.org/resource/3161)
Gender, Marital Status, and Earnings (http://www.teachingwithdata.org/resource/3097)
Occupational Sex Segregation and Earnings Differences (http://www.teachingwithdata.org/resource/3109)
Frederique Laubepin

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