In recent decades, women have been making significant headway in becoming dentists, doctors, and lawyers—professions which require a significant amount of education and postgraduate training. According to some theories, this growing number of women with advanced degrees should help bridge the gender pay gap. And yet, for all three professions, not only does the gender pay gap persist, the differences that can’t be explained by simple factors, such as hours worked or age, might actually be more pronounced than they are for women overall.
In the 1970s, women’s educational progress improved their earnings. However, more recently, researchers have found that education only helps so much. In other words, women can’t educate themselves out of the gender gap.
A new study by the American Dental Association (ADA) takes a look at dentists and physicians to determine whether these unexplained differences have gone up as the proportion of female workers grew. In 1982, only 3 percent of dentists were women; that number is now at 30 percent. The study used Census data to look at earnings in these three professions in 1990, 2000, and 2010.
“Dentistry is about to hit a tipping point where half of dental students are women. There are a lot of myths out there about gender differences among dentists and we wanted to see what the data showed in terms of labor supply and wages,” said Marko Vujicic, an economist at ADA and one of the authors of the study along with Thanh An Nguyen Le and Anthony T. Lo Sasso at the University of Illinois at Chicago.