Economics, U.S. Economy

A quick fix for the gender wage gap

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Image Credit: Shutterstock

If today’s young women want to close the wage gap, they should change their college majors. Aspiring early childhood educators or social workers should reconsider: the median earnings in these fields are $36,000 and $39,000, respectively. By contrast, petroleum engineering and metallurgy degrees promise far more money: median earnings are $120,000 and $80,000. Here is a list of the ten most remunerative majors compiled by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Note that men overwhelmingly outnumber women in all but one major.

  1. Petroleum Engineering: 87% Male
  2. Pharmacy Pharmaceutical Sciences and Administration: 48% Male
  3. Mathematics and Computer Science: 67% Male
  4. Aerospace Engineering: 88% Male
  5. Chemical Engineering: 72% Male
  6. Electrical Engineering: 89% Male
  7. Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering: 97% Male
  8. Mechanical Engineering: 90% Male
  9. Metallurgical Engineering: 83% Male
  10. Mining and Mineral Engineering: 90% Male

And here are the 10 least remunerative majors. This time it is women who prevail in nine out of ten majors.

  1. Counseling Psychology: 74% Female
  2. Early Childhood Education: 97% Female
  3. Theology and Religious Vocations: 34% Female
  4. Human Services and Community Organization: 81% Female
  5. Social Work: 88% Female
  6. Drama and Theater Arts: 60% Female
  7. Studio Arts: 66% Female
  8. Communication Disorders Sciences and Services: 94% Female
  9. Visual and Performing Arts: 77% Female
  10. Health and Medical Preparatory Programs: 55% Female

There are far more women than men in college, and they earned more than 58% of college degrees this year. If large numbers of female students changed from the second group to the first, that would do far more to narrow the gap than, say, the Paycheck Fairness Act. That Act (still floundering in Congress) primarily targets the allegedly sexist practices of employers. But, as most economists will tell you, employers cannot be blamed for much or any of the gap. It is women’s choices that are the problem — beginning with their college majors.

23 thoughts on “A quick fix for the gender wage gap

  1. You fundamentally misunderstand the studies that have been done on the wage gap.

    There is a wage gap for men and women doing the same jobs, with the same qualifications and including their educations.

    Women are paid 77 cents on the dollar paid to men for the same work, same caliber of performance doing the same job with the same qualifying educations and experience in their backgrounds.

  2. Leslie Schwartz,

    I feel it is you who has fundamentally misunderstood the literature.

    Why don’t you provide a link to some of these studies?

  3. The reason so many women choose early childhood education or social worker is because the course work is so easy. Most of these graduates couldn’t become engineers or computer scientists.

  4. Leslie Schwartz – read “The xx factor – how working women are creating a new society” by Alison Wolf. Full of very good solid references which will challenge your assumptions,give you a totally different perspective and teach you loads of other stuff besides.

  5. I think another one that needs to go(for the sake of bridging the gap) is alimony. Creates the need to pursue the higher paying jobs or even better, stops families from breaking up by making being a single parent less attractive.

  6. I think something to consider here is what are we doing to help women and girls be interested in or be successful in those math and science dominated majors? And what are we still doing to encourage girls and women to stick to those more traditionally female dominated professions?

    • Why do we need to be encouraged? The education is as much ours as it is for the guys.

      Female dominated usually means less demanding on time, less stress, and less danger(trades). You really don’t need to upsell that kind of job, women flock to them for those reasons.

  7. Christina Hoff Sommers is one of the most intelligent women in the world. Feminists hate her because she is exposing their propaganda. Feminists now want censorship imposed on the internet so that anything against their propaganda doesn’t see the light. Pathetic people!

  8. Where to start!?! How about: What do you mean by “major”? I see you have “Health and Medical Preparatory Programs” on there, and, yes, if one were to stop at that undergrad degree, I doubt it would get them very far. But if he or she was to take that degree and enter medical school, nursing school, dental school, etc (as I suspect most people who choose this major plan on), they would do very well financially in the long term. So yeah… do you mean undergrad major when you say “major”? And why not include a reference to the “Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce” publication that went into further detail? Seems like you might be bending whatever research you found into the obviously under-nuanced argument you are trying to make.

  9. Dr. Warren Farrell wrote a book called “Why men Earn More: The Startling Truth Behind the Pay Gap – and What Women can do about it.” It argues the same Point Dr. Sommers argues here, that women and men earn different salaries because of different choices. It adds something, however, to the debate. Dr. Farrell argues that men could be learning from women too because women tend to live more balanced lives when they put greater prices on their free time. Just a perspective.
    I also think the truth and honesty has always been the most helpful to any group out there. I hope this comment is helpful.

  10. While not a teacher myself, it pains me to see the lack of respect for those who choose to educate our children. If anyone should be more educated and have a rigorous curriculum, it should be teachers. Who do you think taught you, you self-important, ridiculous assholes. Proof positive we need more capable teachers.

  11. There really isn’t such a being as a teacher (ditto the other professions). There are good and bad teachers (individuals), with too many bad teachers because of the difficulty of helping them find another occupation (the problem of monopolies and unions). There are now many more programs in place and in the works for rewarding better teachers. Instead of insulting commenters making you look like a fool, you should laud efforts to identify the more capable teachers you mention. They would be compensated accordingly if the system weren’t so antiquated.

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