Monday, Apr 23, 2007 7:02 PM UTC

Women earn less than men a year out of college

A new study challenges wage gap deniers.

What better time to release a new study that debunks pay gap denials than the day before Equal Pay Day? Today, the American Association of University Women released a study finding that just a year after graduating from college, women earn just 80 percent of what men make. Ten years down the line, women make 69 percent of what men earn. This flies in the face of the popular argument that women earn less simply because of their lifestyle choices — here’s hoping Carrie Lukas and Kate O’Beirne are taking note.

“Skeptics like to claim that there is no real pay gap,” said Lisa Maatz, AAUW director of public policy and government relations. “Worse, these critics prefer to blame women for any disparities, saying the pay gap is due to the ‘choices’ women make … the very idea that women would purposely choose to earn less money for equal work is ridiculous.”

The AAUW study set out to answer a very simple question: “If a woman and a man make the same choices, will they receive the same pay?” The answer is no. A year after college graduation — when work experience and parenthood are the least likely to be factors — that pay gap already shows up among men and women working full time. The typical retort from pay gap deniers might be: “That’s because women tend to study softer subjects that lead to lower-paying jobs.” This is actually true. Yet the pay gap persists even when looking at men and women who studied the same subjects as undergrads. “In education, women earn 95 percent as much as their male colleagues earn, while in math, women earn 76 percent as much as men earn,” reports Reuters.

As you might expect, that pay gap only grows with time — but not because women are taking time off for parenting or are simply less motivated earners. “Even as the study accounted for such factors as the number of hours worked, occupations or parenthood, the gap persisted,” reports Reuters.

All that being said, it isn’t that the pay gap is entirely attributable to gender. “The evidence shows that even when the ‘explanations’ for the pay gap are included in a regression, they cannot fully explain the pay disparity,” the report concludes. “The regressions for earnings one year after college indicate that when all variables are included, about one quarter of the pay gap is attributable to gender. That is, after controlling for all the factors known to affect earnings, college-educated women earn about 5 percent less than college-educated men earn.”

It’s perfectly reasonable to acknowledge that women’s career and lifestyle choices (which are strongly impacted by the division of domestic roles, according to the study) do affect the wage gap — so long as you acknowledge that gender discrimination does, too.

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