Women earn $9,000 less than men right out of college

Young college-educated women earn 79 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earn

Female college graduates early in their careers earn $9,000 less annually than their male counterparts, according to a new study from the Economic Policy Institute.

Men ages 21 to 24 with a college degree earn an average of $20.94 per hour, according to the study, but their female peers earned only $16.58 per hour on average.

"It is noteworthy that stark wage disparities between men and women occur even at this early part of their careers, when they have fairly comparable labor market experience," wrote authors Elise Gould and Teresa Kroeger in the report.

The gender gap has continued to grow, the study finds. About 15 years ago, young, college-educated women earned 92 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earned, Gould and Kroeger write, but that figure has now decreased to 79 cents.

Promoting gender equity for women employees

The difference in wages can be attributed in part to women's college majors and career choices. For example, men are more likely to major in lucrative fields such as engineering and computer science, according to a 2012 report from the American Association of University Women. However, the pay gap persists even for men and women who major in the same field, the same study found. 

Men also remain concentrated in higher-income positions. According to the report, "These gender wage discrepancies are likely driven by men at the top of the wage distribution earning more than ever before and driving up the average male wage."

Despite the disheartening outlook, Gould and Kroeger note that certain developments aimed at helping all working people will also benefit women specifically, such as:

  • Increases in minimum wage;
  • New rules regarding overtime pay; and
  • Paid sick and family leave.

(Hill, MarketWatch, 4/27; Velasco, Christian Science Monitor, 4/26).

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