College Education Insufficient to Close the Gender Wage Gap, Even at Nonprofits

Print Share on LinkedIn More

September 15, 2016; American Progress

The Center for American Progress (CAP) recently released its analysis of the 2015 College Scorecard, which contains data on U.S. institutes of education. The CAP analysis matched earnings data by gender from the College Scorecard with data from the U.S. Department of the Treasury to determine how quickly the wage gap is formed upon graduation from a four-year college program. Unfortunately, the findings not only confirm that the gender wage gap exists but also that the gap forms early in women’s careers. The key finding from the analysis is that “among federal financial aid recipients, working women’s earnings 10 years after they first enrolled in college are lower than working men’s earnings only six years after enrolling at public and private nonprofit four-year colleges.” In other words, a college education does not equalize the wage gap.

Among graduates from public universities, 10 years after enrolling, women earned $2,113.26 less than men did six years after enrolling. For private universities, the gap was slightly smaller, at $1,954.60. Further, the wage gap was larger for students who graduated from “elite” colleges, a category based on the amount of research the universities conduct. Ten years after entry at a public elite college, the wage gap was $13,475.99; for private elite colleges, this increased to $26,357.75.

That women earn less than men is not news; however, what sets this analysis apart is that it is presented in a way that should have indicated better results for women. For instance, college graduates earn more overall than non-graduates, and women graduate college at a higher rate than men. Since the CAP analysis only includes data for women who are college graduates, non-graduates do not drag down the average earnings, as they do in other studies. Lastly, this analysis only includes data for men and women who had net earnings. Since women participate in the workforce at lower rates than men, this should also increase the mean as compared to other gender wage gap studies.

On the other hand, this analysis was unable to disaggregate the data by college major and occupation, which can have a sizeable influence on earnings. A 2013 report out of Georgetown University indicated that women tend to choose majors that are less lucrative, such as psychology, human services, and the arts, whereas men tend to gravitate towards majors that have mean earnings upwards of $100,000.

A closer look at the nonprofit field in particular is offered through the 2016 GuideStar Compensation Report. Unfortunately, this report mirrors the CAP analysis, indicating that the “median compensation for females continued to lag behind that of males when considering comparable positions at similar organizations. The gap ranged from eight percent for CEOs at organizations with budgets of $250 thousand or less to 23 percent at organizations with budgets of greater than $25 million.”

Based on these analyses, it is apparent that while education increases women’s earnings overall, a substantial wage gap still exists, particularly in the nonprofit field.— Sheela Nimishakavi