The Gender Pay Gap Starts One Year Out of College

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Men and women may be equal when it comes to the tuition they're paying, and the degree they're getting but that's where it stops. According to a study published on Wednesday by the American Association of University Women, one year after graduation women, on average, make around $7,600 less than their male counterparts. "Women working full time earned $35,296 on average, while men working full time earned $42,918," reads the report by Christianne Corbett and Catherine Hill. "These figures represent a female/male earnings ratio of 82 percent, which is slightly higher than it was in 2001 when, among the same group, women earned just 80 percent of what their male peers earned" they added, citing a similar study from the AAUW in 2007.

The AAUW study comes in the wake of a not-so-stellar (unless you're Iceland) report from the World Economic Forum on "The World Gender Gap 2012." Economic participation and education attainment were two factors the WEF looked at in making its list of the best countries for women. "Look below Nicaragua and South Africa and the Philippines, below Lesotho, Latvia and Cuba, and you’ll find America at No. 22 on the list of 135 nations the WEF says are closing the gender gap around the world," reported Megan Casserly at Forbes"The fact [is] that the U.S. has actually fallen in the rankings over the past three years," she added. 

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But that WEF report takes into account other factors like health and wellness and political empowerment which sort of makes it a different, yet equally depressing beast. What Corbett and Hill did was look at pay statistics from full-time working graduates in 2009 (meaning the graduates who graduated from the 2007-2008 year). "After we control for hours, occupation, college major, employment sector, and other factors associated with pay, the pay gap shrinks but does not disappear," they write. And that's important, as someone who has one of those amorphous English degrees can do all kinds of work. And to that idea, they found:

Within a number of occupations, women already earned less than men earned just one year out of college. Among teachers, for example, women earned 89 percent of what men earned. In business and management occupations, women earned 86 percent of what men earned; similarly, in sales occupations, women earned just 77 percent of what their male peers earned. 

Those findings in those specific professions debunk the general arguments that usually accompany studies like these: that women don't choose the same professions as men or that women may be more apt to go into fields like education and social sciences which pay less. (We ran into some of those critiques when we reported on a study which found female editors making less then their male counterparts.) And eliminating all those variables and argument makes it hard to ignore the pay gap or pretend it doesn't exist.

So what can we do about it (yes, we know this question is loaded)? According to Hill and Corbett,"To begin with, we must publicly recognize it as a problem. Too often, both women and men dismiss the pay gap as simply a matter of different choices." And women aren't off the hook either, "Although women cannot avoid the pay gap completely, they can make choices that enhance their earning potential," write Hill and Corbett who suggest things like taking initiative and negotiate salary offers, seek out union jobs, and pay attention to salaries associated to college majors. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.