Choice of college subjects means women earn less than men

August 10th, 2009 - 11:53 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Aug 10 (IANS) Higher education may have helped women catch up somewhat with men in terms of earnings, but according to new research there is one factor which is instrumental in perpetuating that gap — the choice of subjects in college.
Women are still segregated into college majors that will lead them to careers with less pay than men, said Donna Bobbitt-Zeher, study author and assistant professor of sociology at Ohio State University (OSU).

“Gender segregation in college is becoming more influential in how men and women are rewarded later in life,” Bobbitt-Zeher said.

“If you really want to eliminate earnings inequality, college major segregation is a piece of the puzzle that really stands out.”

The findings are especially important now because many people assume that, if anything, college helps women more than it helps men nowadays.

“A lot of people look at data showing that women are more likely to go to college than men, and that women get better grades in college than men, and assume that everything is all right,” she said.

“But this research suggests there are still problems for women that relate to college.”

She used data from the National Longitudinal Study of the High School Class of 1972 and the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988.

With these data sets, she was able to compare women who graduated from high school in 1972 and 1992.

She compared the incomes of college graduates seven years after their high school graduations, in 1979 and 1999. Both samples included about 10,000 cases.

Findings showed the income gap between college-educated men and women declined significantly in 20 years — in 1979, women’s earnings were 78 percent of their male counterparts, but by 1999 the women were earning 83 percent as much as men.

Bobbitt-Zeher presented her research at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, San Francisco.

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