Equal pay day: Integration through education

This year for equal pay day, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research is focusing on occupational segregation.

We learned a few years ago that, since the 1950s, occupational gender segregation had dropped much faster for workers with college degrees. Now IWPR updates that trend to show a wide gap in segregation experienced by those with versus without BAs.

I made similar calculations a few years ago, and offered offered an explanation for why segregation could have declined faster among those with more education:

Women’s access to higher education has increased rapidly, and they now handily outnumber men graduating with four-year degrees. In the early 1970s, there were 68 women for every 100 men with college degrees in the young-adult population (ages twenty-five tothirty-four). By the early 2000s, that ratio had risen to 114 women per 100 men. Thus, even if the average employer of college graduates kept his biased evaluation of applicants stuck in the 1970s, with a constant tilting toward male résumés, his pool of employees would include more women as the applicant pool became more feminized. By this credential theory, occupations requiring college degrees should have moved toward desegregation over the last generation.

And that is what happened. In other words, educational opportunity could be the major driver in occupational integration.

Fittingly, new data released today by the Census Bureau shows women have 49% of the advanced degrees (MA, professional degree or PhD), but 58% among those ages 25-29, a harbinger of demographic trends to come. Still, in the current market (2009), men hold more than 60% of the professional and doctorate degrees (I did this in pink and blue, in keeping with recent tradition):

Also out today, the Center for American Progress has interactive maps on the career wage gap for women and the prevalence of women as primary earners in their families. Heather Boushey and colleagues summarize their findings here.

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