Men make more money just six years after enrolling in college than women do 10 years after entering schools, a wage gap that persists across public and private four-year universities, according to a study released this week by the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank.
The study used data from the College Scorecard, a government database that includes earnings for students who received financial aid, to gauge how quickly the gender wage gap sets in after college. The analysis focuses on students who entered school in 2001 or 2002, the most recent cohort that includes six-year and 10-year data, and found men at the six-year mark pulling in roughly $4,000 a year more than women at 10 years.
"We know there's a gender wage gap, but this visualizes what that looks like at every college," said Antoinette Flores, author of the study and a policy analyst at the center.
Wage disparities are especially acute at the nation's most elite private schools. Men who attended universities such as Harvard, Stanford and Princeton on average earn $26,000 a year more than their female classmates a decade after enrolling. Harvard women bring home an annual salary of $54,045 less than Harvard men 10 years after starting school. Still, women at elite colleges or premier research institutions have the highest earnings among women, with an average salary of $75,000 a decade out compared with an average of $44,000 among women from other private nonprofit schools.
Among public colleges, the wage gap ranges from a high of $13,000 a year for research universities to $10,000 for other state schools. Women who attended elite public colleges earn an average of $50,000 a year after 10 years compared with an average of $39,000 among women from other public colleges.
Flores said there is no single reason why the wage gap exists, but she suspects college majors and occupations play a role. Men may have landed jobs in high-paying fields, such as engineering or finance.
Differences in who enrolls in graduate school and what they study might also affect the disparity in pay. And women leaving the workforce to care for children and then returning to work could also put a damper on pay, the study said. As a result, Flores said paid family leave and high-quality child care could help narrow the wage gap.