No, Women Getting College Degrees Won’t Close The Gender Wage Gap

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The gender wage gap stands at 22 percent, meaning that American women who work full-time, year-round, make just 78 percent of what their male peers make in a year. Progress to close it has been basically nonexistent for a decade. But some argue that the fact that young women are getting college degrees at a faster rate than men is a sign that the wage gap is going to shrink.

Unfortunately, the data doesn’t look good for that prediction. As with all workers, getting a higher degree boosts women’s earnings: a woman with a bachelor’s makes an average of twice that of a woman who didn’t graduate from high school. But according to a new report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), the wage gap actually widens the more education a woman pursues.

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At every level, a woman will make less than a man with the same degree. While women with associate degrees get closest to parity, earning 80 percent of what men with an associate degree make and experiencing a smaller gap that those with high school educations, it starts to widen even more once they go further. Women with graduate degrees have the widest gap, making just 69 percent of what men make.

Age does play a role in the wage gap, and young Millennial women have a smaller wage gap than older women, making 85.7 percent of what their male peers make compared to a 72.5 percent ratio for women above age 65. In fact, the wage gap starts to significantly widen right around the age when women typically start having children. But young female college graduates will still earn less in their first job than men, experiencing a wage gap right off the bat. There’s also a wage gap for women at every age.

It’s also important to remember that while slightly more women are earning bachelor’s degrees today — 29.7 percent, compared to 29.5 percent of men — many don’t get to that level. For women older than 25, 12.8 percent hadn’t graduated high school and 27.3 percent had just a high school diploma or equivalent, according to IWPR’s data.

Beyond education levels, the wage gap also pursues women no matter what job they take. They earn less in virtually every category and in every industry, from female-dominated ones to high-paying male-dominated ones.