Discover more from Briefed by Data
Why are women overrepresented in higher education?
Thoughts on this and the "gender pay gap"
I've now written two pieces about gender inequalities in higher education: undergraduate and master's enrollment, with a Ph.D. post on the way. Women account for around 58% of undergraduates and 62% of master's degree students and have held a majority since the early 1980s. Why? is the obvious question. One suggestion was that it is because women must work more and have more qualifications to get the same income as men. Is this true or false? Let's go to the data. Did you catch the reference? I'm attempting to reinvent the term “let's go to the video tape.”
Earnings by gender and education
The United States Department of Labor has provided Figure 1. Men earn more than women at every level of education. A woman with a bachelor's degree, on the other hand, will dramatically outearn a male with less schooling. Women make 82% of what males earn in total, but a man with only a high school diploma gets 75% of what a woman with a bachelor's degree earns, and even a man with some college earns 89% of what a woman with a bachelor's degree earns. A woman with an advanced degree, on the other hand, does not outearn a guy with just a bachelor's degree. So, perhaps there is some truth to the notion that women are more driven to attend college in order to meet or exceed male earnings. Note: I'm assuming implicitly that increasing education leads to higher compensation. I don't necessarily believe this is totally accurate because individuals who continue their studies are not chosen at random.
A man with only a high school diploma, on the other hand, makes 58% of what a man with a bachelor's degree earns, and some college education only raises this to 68%. Interestingly, the percentages are the same for men and women; in other words, the percentages are the same if we replace woman with man in the preceding sentence.
If salary was the motivator, this education wage disparity would appear to be a lot of motivation for men. Of course, income may be a more motivating incentive for women competing with men than it is for men competing with women. This explanation does not satisfy me; therefore, let us examine further data. We'll begin with the overall gender wage gap.
Trends in the wage gap
Figure 2, EPI data, depicts the mean and median hourly wages for men and women. This is the type of statistic that is commonly referred to when discussing the gender wage gap. Regression lines have been introduced to reflect overall trends, but please keep in mind that there is a lot of variation around those lines. In general, the salary disparity between men and women has narrowed, with women's wages growing faster. However, the male median salary has remained unchanged for more than 40 years, and the difference between the median and mean male wage has widened. Furthermore, the income disparity between the median and mean males is greater than the wage disparity between the mean female and male. This appears to give guys motivation to attend college. Okay, I understand, but there is still a gender gap, and the most prevalent explanation is gender discrimination. Again, let’s go to the data (catchy, isn’t it?).
Cities that “discriminate” against young men
Figure 3 is from a Pew Research Center article published in March 2022. In a lot of cities, the median full-time, year-round wages for women under 30 are higher than those for men under 30. There are, of course, cities where the earnings are reversed. If you wish to argue that some cities discriminate against women, how can you not equally say that other cities discriminate against men? Overall, younger women in cities continue to earn 93% of what males do, with the percentage varying from 90% to 95% depending on region. Yes, there is still a divide, but if the gap favors women in particular places, this may be due to the jobs in these cities rather than prejudice. In any case, this provides additional motivation for guys to attend college.
The Uber study
The article What Drives the Gender Pay Gap? Lessons from the Uber Study (May 2022) has a good summary of the Uber Study.
A 2018 Stanford University study1 led by economists into the GPG in the gig economy produced some surprising results. The study analysed data from more than 1.8 million drivers and 740 million Uber trips in the USA. It was assumed that because the Uber app's algorithm is gender neutral, in so far as nobody actually requests a male or female driver, there shouldn't be any GPG between male and female drivers in the Uber data pool. Male and female drivers are paid the same rate regardless of tenure, seniority or gender. However, when they ran the numbers, the gap was 7%. On further scrutiny of the data, economists discovered that a number of gender related features, which were beyond the employer’s control, were driving this.
The article summarizes the differences as a result of three major factors: trip location, experience, and trip completion times. The first and third are male drivers who are willing to take on more risk. They were eager to travel faster and to more hazardous locations. This is what I'll refer to as the risk premium. They have this to say about experience:
Within the relevant data pool, male drivers would generally accumulate more experience by working more hours each week and were less likely to stop driving with Uber after a period of six months. As a consequence, it was taking male drivers less time to work out where and at what time the more lucrative calls are received, so, in turn, how to earn more per hour;
One could claim that driving for longer periods of time is risky. Is it acceptable for someone to earn more cash by taking on more risk? Yes, I would think so, and this is part of the female salary disparity. Is it surprising that men dominate the riskiest jobs, as shown in Figure 4? Because the jobs shown in Figure 4 do not require a college diploma, a male with only a high school diploma can typically earn more than a woman, but this comes at a cost. Is the cost really worth it? These jobs have a high fatality rate, and nearly no one discusses the long-term toll on the body. There are numerous programs aimed at increasing the number of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), but few are specifically aimed at increasing the number of female roofers.
If you've made it this far, please subscribe. A free subscription is simply a click away and greatly appreciated.
The gender wage gap is multifaceted, and while sexism may account for some of it, there are a number of other explanations. There are other articles and studies that provide additional context (for example, here), but because this is not the established mainstream media viewpoint, you won't hear much about them. Much of it boils down to choice, with men being more willing to take certain types of risks. This returns us to the basic question of why women dominate higher education. Men have numerous economic reasons to attend college, but they do not. Why males do not attend college at the same rate as women is an intriguing issue with clearly complex, nuanced, and multifaceted answers. This is also not a uniquely American phenomenon. In February 2023, the World Bank blog published a piece that provides a good overview if you want to learn more.
Please share and like
Please help me find readers by forwarding this article to your friends (and even those who aren't your friends), sharing this post on social media, and clicking like. If you're on Twitter, you can find me at BriefedByData. If you have any article ideas, feedback, or other views, please email me at email@example.com.
In a crowded media market, it's hard to get people to read your work. I have a long way to go, and I want to say thank you to everyone who has helped me find and attract subscribers.
Disagreeing and using comments
I'd rather know the truth and understand the world than always be right. I'm not writing to upset or antagonize anyone on purpose, though I guess that could happen. I welcome dissent and disagreement in the comments. We all should be forced to articulate our viewpoints and change our minds when we need to, but we should also know that we can respectfully disagree and move on. So, if you think something said is wrong or misrepresented, then please share your viewpoint in the comments.